Alabama is inching toward having an Arizona-style immigration law.
On Thursday, the Alabama Legislature passed, with a 23-11 vote, a bill takes a hard-line approach to illegal immigration.
The bill, which had already cleared the House, would require police to check immigration status of someone they stop during the course of their work and suspect may be in the country illegally. Both the Senate and House bills also make it a crime to knowingly house, give a ride to, rent to or employ an illegal immigrant.
Senators changed the new version to make it almost identical to a measure that passed the Senate earlier this month.
Senate sponsor Republican Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale said a conference committee will be needed to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions.
People whose legal status the police are unable to verify could be jailed and eventually charged with trespassing if they are determined to be in the country illegally.
The House and Senate bills vary in their punishments and whether businesses are held responsible for subcontractors who use illegal immigrants. But the main difference is that the House bill requires all businesses to use the federal E-Verify program, an Internet-based system that allows an employer to check a potential employee's legal status based on information routinely required on employment forms.
The vote on the bill fell mostly on party lines with Democrats opposing it and Republicans supporting it.
Opponents said the bill goes too far and will lead to racial profiling by police officers.
"It allows discrimination against certain ethnic groups," said Rep. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro.
But Beason said the bill would reduce unemployment in Alabama by making jobs currently held by illegal immigrants available for legal residents.
"This is a jobs bill for Alabama. It puts thousands of Alabamians back to work," Beason said.