07 February 2012

Alabama’s tough American immigration laws feel backlash

Alabama's HB 56 bill, widely regarded as the toughest US immigration law in the country, has led to protests in the state's largest city, Birmingham, as the bill's effects are felt.

US immigration

Alabama's immigration laws are regarded by many as the toughest in the country.

Students from local colleges gathered in Birmingham's business district and protested the severe US immigration law by holding a mock funeral in front of a bank which, according to the protesters, funded private detention centres where illegal immigrants died.

The bill was drafted in large part by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who gained national attention for his similarly strict immigration laws in Arizona.

The bill, signed in to law in June 2011, prevents illegal immigrants from receiving any public benefits, prevents landlords from renting to illegal immigrants and allows police to request anyone who they have 'reasonable suspicion' about regarding their legal status to produce proof of their legal immigration.

While some of the law's provisions remain blocked, including preventing illegal immigrants for applying for any job and from attending publicly owned universities or colleges, there is mounting pressure within Alabama for the state legislature to 'tweak' the law.

Protesters in Alabama condemned the bill's voters and the proposal to tweak the bill:

"Everybody that voted for HB 56 should be ashamed of themselves" said one of the protesters. "They should all be pushing for full repeal, not tweaking anything. You can't tweak hate."

It would appear that the law's restrictions have begun to take their toll on Alabama's workforce as reports of workers without a valid US visa flee their posts and large numbers of businesses sacrifice their work as they struggle to verify their employees.

The University of Alabama claim the state is losing as much as $11 billion (£7 billion) due to lost jobs and tax revenues.

State Senator Scott Beason refutes that number and has refused to support any efforts to change the law.

"If people begin to cave from political pressure, that donors want something changed, they'll have to do it against the vast majority of people in their district and go will the small special interest group that makes their decision base on profit."

Recent polls show that an estimated 42% of people believe the law goes too far and several legislators have proposed bills to modify the law.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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