Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [official website] on Friday signed [press release] a bill [HB 658 text] designed to "simplify and clarify" the state's tough immigration law [HB 56, PDF]. The move came one day after Bentley called a special legislative session [JURIST report] to discuss changes to the bill. The new legislation clarifies what types of documents can be used as identification and eases measures against subcontractors who hire illegal immigrants. It also contains exceptions for religious leaders. Bentley said there is "substantial progress in this bill," but critics have said that it fails to address [CNN report] some of the major concerns with the original legislation.
In March the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit deferred ruling [JURIST report] on the constitutionality of both Alabama's law and a similar Georgia law because it wanted to see how a challenge to Arizona's immigration law is decided in the US Supreme Court [official website]. In December Bentley announced that he would be working to change the law [JURIST report] but maintained that he had no intention of repealing it and that the essence of the law would still be intact. Bentley's announcement came after a recommendation [JURIST report] by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange that certain provisions probably would not withstand constitutional challenges. Two provisions were temporarily blocked [JURIST report] by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in October after a district court refused to grant [JURIST report] a temporary injunction: Section 28, which requires immigration status checks of public school students, and Section 10, which makes it a misdemeanor for an illegal resident not to have immigration papers.