According to the Sebastian Kitchen at South Union Street,

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill modeled after controversial legislation in Arizona that targets illegal immigration with people on both sides expecting the proposal to end up in court.

The House passed the bill 73-28 after about six hours of debate. Republicans applauded after its passage.

One group that is not applauding is our local county governments and municipalities. The Alabama County Commission Association has declared this bill a “danger” to our community governments. The Association has identified many dangerous aspects in this brief.

This legislation would impose dozens of new responsibilities on county government and local law enforcement in Alabama. . . .The persons accused of violating these new criminal statutes will clog Alabama’s jail and court system. The legislation contemplates local government becoming the law enforcement agency for reducing the presence and activities of illegal aliens in Alabama as well as the behaviors of those who employ or provides services to illegal aliens.

A major element of the legislation establishes a new state “trespass” crime. A person is guilty of “trespassing” if they are merely in Alabama and an illegal immigrant.  Law enforcement will not be able to release those arrested for this new crime but incarcerate them for up to twelve months and then transport them to a federal immigration facility.

You can read the text of the bill here.

The Association is properly concerned about the costs this will impose on our local governments.

The exact costs of this legislation are extremely difficult to calculate, especially when one considers Alabama’s county governments are under the same financial strains as state government, county jails are already overcrowded and law enforcement officers in Alabama face life-threatening challenges on a daily basis.

A similar measure considered by the Kentucky legislature was expected to place an additional 15,000
illegal aliens in Kentucky jails for an average stay of some 60 days per inmate. The estimated costs in
Kentucky for additional jail expenses alone were more than $26 million per year.

The Kentucky estimates were for just 60 days, not 12 months. Additionally, they identify:

There are no provisions regarding reimbursement for the costs of such a new policy in Alabama, nor are their specific authorizations for local officials or the court to deny bail or to take any other steps to deny a person of the right to bail.

and

Because the person could not be released “on any basis” until the sentence was served, this bill would have the potential of placing every illegal alien in an Alabama county jail.

Go ahead and add the estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants to our local jail rolls and the cost of housing and feeding them to our budgets. So when Republican House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, the bill’s sponsor,  says the goal is to push illegal immigrants out of the state and “it will make it difficult for them to live in Alabama,” he is wrong; they will live in Alabama, in our jails, on the taxpayer’s dime. (If ICE refuses to process these “referrals,” as they have threatened elsewhere, I suppose the illegal immigrants stay in our county jails for life.)

Because of this legislation, the Association sees a detrimental impact on law enforcement’s ability to do its current job of ferreting out real criminals:

Local governments are simply unprepared to become the enforcement agency for the illegal alien problem in Alabama. Should this legislation become law, it will have a dramatic impact on the ability of local law enforcement to focus on the existing criminal activities in their local communities.

The Association though sees the greatest danger in the conversion of our local governments into administrative arms of the federal government. The bill specifically excludes the Alabama Attorney General as the enforcement arm of this bill but vests that responsibility solely with county Sheriffs, State Troopers, and City police. In addition to the new arrest powers and housing responsibilities, the bill adds further administrative actions by local governments. Because the bill “establishes a maze of hearings and administrative steps to be taken against the employers accused of violating” the law and “requires local government to initiate legal action against employer”, local law enforcement personnel would be involved in every step of that process.  Association’s commentary here is telling:

COMMENT: This section is one of the most troubling in this legislation. If passed in its current form, this section would turn local law enforcement agencies into state administrative officers – attending state
administrative hearings and bringing legal action against employers in Alabama. The costs of enforcing this one section alone would be enough to bring much of the remainder of other county government programs to a standstill. If such a process is to be established for action against employers in Alabama, it certainly should be enforced by the state’s attorney.

What happened to the Republican screed about fiscal responsibility, or unfunded mandates? Although the federal government has failed its responsibility in this field, this legislation only compounds a very complex issue.

Democrats and reasonable, conscientious Republicans in the Senate must oppose this legislation. Responsible legislation to address the illegal immigration is needed, not this bill which only appeals to guttural instincts.

We need to provide every county commissioner, every Sheriff, every mayor and city councilperson a copy of the ACCA’s brief on this bill. For while it addresses specifically counties, the bill will impact municipalities in every way  the same. Let’s encourage them to contact their State Senator to vote oppose this bill.

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