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Revisions to Alabama’s HB 56 Are No Fix

Crowd rallies in Montgomery after reenacting 1965 march.

Despite promising a veto, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) on Friday signed into law revisions to the state’s notorious anti-immigrant measure HB 56. The new version (HB 658) maintains the worst of the original law’s provisions.

HB 658 leaves unchanged the requirement that schools check the immigration status of students and their parents—a provision that kept children out of school and even raised Bentley’s concern (although not enough to stop him from enacting HB 658). In signing the bill, he said:

I still have concerns about the school provision in the original law. That provision is currently enjoined by a federal court, so it is not currently in effect, and we can re-address this issue if the need arises.

HB 658 also:

  • Retains HB56’s provision criminalizing efforts by religious or humanitarian groups to meet the basic needs of immigrants. 
  • Requires the state to post on its website the names and counties of every “unlawfully present person” who appears in court for any violation of state law.  This new unfunded obligation subjects immigrants and their families to potential harassment or vigilante violence.
  • Continues to bar landlords from renting apartments to undocumented immigrants, threatening immigrant families with homelessness. 
  • Continues to void contracts (another section of the original bill that has been legally blocked), including leases. This measure effectively takes away workers’ ability to enforce promises made to them by employers—such as the wage promised for work done.

HB 56 prompted outrage and protests among union, civil and human rights, immigrant rights and faith organizations. In November, a delegation of African American labor leaders traveled to Alabama to investigate the law’s effects. It also inspired a March reenactment of the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Read about the march here and here.

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