On June 9th, Alabama governor Robert Bentley signed what supporters and opponents alike consider to be the toughest law on immigration in the nation.
The law, due to come into effect on September 1st, requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be illegal if they are pulled over for some other reason. (It’s also a criminal act to harbor or give a ride to someone who is in the country illegally.) Alabama businesses are required to use the E-Verify database to check the immigration status of their employees and businesses that employ illegal aliens could have their business licenses suspended or even revoked.
Opponents of the bill are honing their attacks on the fact that public schools will be required to check the residency status of their students. Jared Shepherd, an attorney with the ACLU, said he is concerned illegal immigrants will not send their children to school out of fear of being arrested. One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Scott Beason of Gardendale, said that particular section of the bill is intended to gather information about how many illegal aliens attend Alabama public schools, and the cost of educating them. In fact, the bill specifically states that “primary and secondary education” is a public benefit that does not require residency to be verified.
In the 1982 case Plyler v. Doe, the United States Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants could not be denied a public education based on their status. The writers of the immigration bill studied Plyler v. Doe previously, and the state bill contains no provisions violating it. Also, because of the way this bill was written, if one section of the bill is ruled to be unconstitutional, the rest of the law will still stand. “We want anybody who wants to make their home here to be able to do so,” says Representative John Merrill. “But we want every one of them to do it the right way.”
As a lifelong Alabama resident and current undergraduate student, I don’t believe this law will impact me personally – I am a citizen and every international student I know is either part of an exchange program or recently obtained citizenship – but I can see how it might hinder illegal students from wanting to pursue or continue higher education. The real test will be when the law comes into effect in three months.
Kara Coleman attends Gadsden State Community College, where she is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and has received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism.
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