Two days after sending the state’s controversial immigration bill back to lawmakers for revisions, Alabama’s governor signed the bill into law without any of his proposed changes made.
Gov. Robert Bentley signed HB 658 into law on Friday, claiming that Alabama’s legislature "did not have the appetite" to make anymore changes to the bill at this time.
"In an effort to remove the distraction of immigration from the other business of the special session, I decided to sign House Bill 658 and allow the progress made in the legislation to move forward," Bentley said in a statement. "We can now also move forward on the other business of the special session."
Bentley, a Republican, had previously argued that the state legislature should remove a provision in Alabama's immigration law that requires school officials to ask students about the legal status of their parents. He called a special session of the state’s legislature to address the immigration issue along with state budget and redistricting.
The bottom line is there are too many positive aspects of House Bill 658 for it to go unsigned. I don’t want to lose the progress we have made
- Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley
"I still have concerns about the school provision in the original law," Bentley said in a statement Friday. "That provision is currently enjoined by a federal court, so it is not currently in effect, and we can re-address this issue if the need arises. I also still disagree with certain aspects of the new provision in House Bill 658 that called for expending state funds to create a public database with the names of illegal immigrants."
Bentley appears to be concerned that the revised measure tramples on constitutional rights.
Alabama Sen. Scott Beason, the sponsor of the 2011 law and its 2012 revisions, said that he "couldn't be more pleased" with Bentley’s decision to sign HB 658. Beason views the signing as another victory, as he was successful in getting lawmakers to approve limited changes to state's law pending the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law.
"Now we're set to hear from the Supreme Court on Arizona," Beason said, according to AL.com.
Some activists are threatening to take civil action against the state for alleged unconstitutional provisions in the immigration law.
"This so-called “reform” bill is nothing more than window dressing – apparently aimed at appeasing the state’s business leaders even though the majority of small businesses and the state’s farmers will continue to suffer," wrote Mary Bauer, the legal director of Southern Poverty Law Center, in a press release last week. "And, in some areas, the bill actually makes the original law much worse."
“And, given the added unconstitutional provisions it will create, the Southern Poverty Law Center will be forced to file more lawsuits against the state of Alabama,” Bauer added.
Despite his own misgivings about the law, Bentley believes that the immigration law is a good thing for Alabama and that is has made progress within the state.
"The bottom line is there are too many positive aspects of House Bill 658 for it to go unsigned. I don’t want to lose the progress we have made," Bentley said. "This bill reduces burdens on legal residents as they conduct government transactions. The bill also reduces burdens on businesses while still holding them accountable to hire legal workers. These changes make this a stronger bill."