[JURIST] The Alabama State House of Representatives [official website] on Tuesday approved a bill [HB 56 text, PDF; materials] to create an illegal immigration [JURIST news archive] policy comparable to the controversial Arizona law [JURIST news archive]. The bill, approved by a vote of 73-28, would grant state and local police broad powers to examine the immigration status of anyone detained, no matter what the charge. The bill also denies state services to illegal immigrants and requires businesses to check employees’ immigration statuses through the E-Verify [official website] database. The legislation met opposition [Reuters report] from Democrats, who claim that immigration enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government and the additional crackdown would place pressure on Alabama’s already strained budget. Civil rights groups remain concerned that the legislation would lead to racial profiling in a state with a sordid history of civil rights violations. The bill will now move to the Alabama Senate [official website] for a vote.
Several states have enacted or proposed legislation [JURIST reports] similar to the controversial Arizona immigration law. Last month, the Oklahoma State Senate [official website] approved [JURIST report] a bill that would give police officers the authority to question the citizenship status of any person lawfully stopped for a traffic violation and arrest them without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe the person is in the country illegally. Also in March, Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official website] signed into law [JURIST report] a package of bills aimed at both reforming the state’s immigration laws and challenging the federal government to take action for reform nationally. In February, the Indiana Senate [official website] approved a bill [JURIST report] that would require individuals suspected of being illegal to provide proof of their legal status and calls for all public meetings, websites and documents to be in English only. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed suit [JURIST report] in July against Arizona Governor Jan Brewer [official website] seeking to permanently enjoin the state’s immigration law. The complaint states that the law is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause [text] of the US Constitution. The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual’s immigration status if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” to believe an individual is in the country illegally. It has been widely criticized in regard to the law’s constitutionality and alleged “legalization” of racial profiling.