The Alabama Legislature passed an Arizona-style law Thursday night to crack down on illegal immigration, including a requirement that all businesses verify new employees are legal residents.
The House voted 67-29 and the Senate concurred 25-7 in a compromise bill worked out by two Republican legislators who led the charge for the legislation, Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur and Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale. The bill now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley, who has advocated immigration legislation.
"This is an Arizona bill with an Alabama twist," Hammon said.
Like the Arizona law, the Alabama bill allows a police officer who stops a motorist for a traffic violation to detain the person if he has a "reasonable suspicion" the person is in the country illegally. The sponsors said that if the motorist doesn't have a driver's license or other document to show, the police officer will have to try to determine the identity by checking other records. They said "reasonable suspicion" could include acting nervously or having a tag that doesn't match vehicle registration records.
Democratic Sen. Linda Coleman of Birmingham predicted it would lead to discrimination. But Beason said, "You can't just stop someone because of how they look."
The bill requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to check to see if their new hires are legal residents. Businesses with 25 or fewer employees could use the state Department of Homeland Security to do the checks for them.
Any business twice cited for hiring undocumented workers could lose its business license.
Beason said the checks would get rid of undocumented workers that are taking jobs that should go to legal Alabama residents.
"This is a jobs bill," he said.
The bill also makes it a crime for an undocumented immigrant to apply for a job and for anyone to transport or harbor undocumented immigrants. It prevents cities from passing laws to protect undocumeted immigrants in their cities.