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Dems spar with Riley over immigration panel

MONTGOMERY (AP) — A political brouhaha has broken out over the makeup of a commission set up by the Alabama Legislature to study legal and illegal immigration in Alabama and to make recommendations to state and federal officials concerning possible solutions.

In a press release Thursday, Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham said Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, appointed campaign contributors and representatives of industries that hire illegal immigrants to the Joint Patriotic Immigration Commission. Turnham said Riley’s appointments were designed to “stifle meaningful immigration reform.”

Riley responded Friday with a news release by his communications director Jeff Emerson accusing Democrats of blocking immigration reform legislation in the Legislature in recent sessions.

“For the do-nothing Democrats to block Governor Riley’s proposals to combat illegal immigration and then put out garbage like this reaches a whole new level of hypocrisy, even for them,” Emerson said.

A number of proposals to make it more difficult for employers to hire illegal immigrants, to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving social services and dealing with other immigration issues were introduced by both Democrats and Republicans during this year’s regular session. Most of the proposals died — some without coming up for a vote.

One Republican on the commission, the vice chairman, Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said he also believes the commission is stacked with people who oppose changing the status quo, but he would not blame Riley for the makeup. House Speaker Seth Hammett and Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., both Democrats, also made appointments to the commission.

“I think some members of the commission are happy with the status quo. I don’t know who’s totally responsible, but I do think special interest figured out a way to take over the commission,” Beason said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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