As I pointed out here, House Republicans passed a bill modeled after controversial legislation in Arizona that targets illegal immigration. As identified by the Alabama County Commission Association, the Republicans’ bill:
Local law enforcement will be expected to check the citizenship not only of the driver of the vehicle but also anyone who is in the vehicle. If a passenger does not have proof of citizenship, the passenger will be charged with Trespass and the driver and the owner of the vehicle will be charged with Smuggling. As a Class C Felony, the Smuggling charge will almost certainly include time served in a county jail.
So, if you pick up a Latino-looking hitch-hiker, you have possibly committed a Class C felony if law enforcement believes that you “[had] reason to know that the person . . . transported” is an illegal immigrant.
Republicans have now outlawed modern day Good Samaritans. I suppose the original Good Samaritan should have asked the injured guy in the ditch for his papers before loading him onto his donkey. Because, if the injured man turned out to be an “illegal,” the Good Samaritan would have committed illegal Smuggling, a Class C Felony. (On top of that, the original Good Samaritan also committed Criminal Concealment, a Class A misdemeanor, when he brought him to an inn, “took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper,” and therefore, “concealed him from detection.”)
What about Faith Mission in Montgomery which houses homeless persons? Will they be felons if they allow undocumented persons to avoid the cold? Does the Jimmy Hale Mission need to require proof of citizenship? What about domestic violence shelters? Because according to the terms of the statute, each of these facilities would be committing felonies by “harbor[ing] . . . in a building. . .[when they] know or recklessly disregard the fact that the alien . . . remains in the United States in violation of law.”
Maybe the Republicans should simply insert the word “corruptly” into these sections as they did to “strengthen” i.e water-down the “ethics legislation.” (Under the ethics law passed during the special session, lawmakers can’t take “anything” as a gift from people seeking to influence legislation. The Senate Republicans are now adding the word “corruptly” three times to the ethics law to describe the intent of the gift-giver trying to influence official action. )
While these sections could be fixed, one aspect of the legislation cannot be remedied by additional verbiage. While this bill outlaws Good Samaritans and casts a cloud of suspicion over all Latino-looking people in the state, it also empowers the thieves in the Good Samaritan parable. It actually declares open-season to criminals on illegal immigrants. You can rob, you can molest their children, you can abuse them because it intimidates crime victims and witnesses. What illegal immigrant will report crimes now knowing they, themselves, will be arrested for “trespassing” on the spot. As reported by the Tuscaloosa paper, law enforcement agrees:
If the law passes the Senate as it is now written and is signed into law, it also could have a chilling effect on a populace that is already afraid of law enforcement, officials said.
Northport Police Chief Robert W. Green said he suspects the Hispanic community of Northport already reports far fewer crimes than actually occur, out of fear of being deported.
‘I think … (that) would probably increase significantly with the passage of this bill,’ Green said.
Sexton, Anderson and Green said the number of Hispanic or Latino suspects whom they already encounter is relatively low.
In fact, Sexton said it was too low, compared to arrests of other races, despite the growing number of Hispanic and Latin American residents that were reflected in the 2010 Census. The recent census data counted 5,949 Hispanics in the county, nearly triple the 2,130 Hispanics counted 10 years prior.