Alabama's immigration law has plenty of critics. But you wouldn't expect one of them to be the man who signed the measure into law.
Gov. Robert Bentley, who still firmly supports the law's objective to crack down on illegal immigration, wants the Legislature to simplify the state's tough new immigration law that has been challenged in court, with some of its provisions put on hold by a judge.
The Legislature passed the law in late June with the Republican governor's approval and it took effect in late September.
"We did pass a very complicated bill," Bentley told the Birmingham Business Alliance.
The new law, described by Bentley and many others as the nation's toughest, requires a check of legal residency when doing everything from buying a car tag to enrolling a child in school to getting a job.
Businesses must use the federal E-Verify system to check the legal status of new workers or face losing their business licenses.
"It's not a bad bill. It's just somewhat confusing and it's difficult to explain to people," he said.
Bentley said he has been talking with business and law enforcement groups, as well as others, to collect suggested changes.
"We've been doing this behind the scenes," he said.
The reason, he said, is that anything he says he wants to change could become fodder for the U.S. Justice Department's legal challenge against the law and he wants to wait until closer to the next legislative session starting Feb. 7 before disclosing any plans.
But he was emphatic when he said, "I do believe we need to simplify this bill."
Bentley told about 670 business people attending the meeting that his proposed changes won't alter the need for employers to verify the legal status of their new hires.
"We are still not going to change the fact that you cannot hire people who are not legal in this country to work for you," he said.
Alliance President Brian Hilson said the role of businesses in enforcing immigration laws is complicated and needs to be clearer.
The two Republican leaders of the Legislature, House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston, said Monday they have seen nothing yet that needs tweaking, but they are willing to consider minor changes.
"I can tell you we are not going to make it less tough," Hubbard said.
The federal courts have put some parts of Alabama's immigration law on hold, including checking the legal status of new students, but the business portions are still in effect. Companies doing government work have to start using E-Verify by Jan. 1 and all others by April 1.
Business groups say the Jan. 1 deadline will affect most retailers in Alabama because they sell office supplies, furniture, food, car parts and hundreds of other products to government agencies.
Based on a story by The Associated Press.