Republican State Senator Bill Holtzclaw attended a two-hour meeting of about 90 leaders from area churches, mosques, temples, and social service agencies at Faith Presbyterian Church in Huntsville. The meeting was to discuss the implications of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act aka Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law. In response to several comments about transporting “illegal immigrants” on church outings, the Huntsville Times reported (and Holtzclaw tweeted),

“Read the law,” Holtzclaw said. “It says ‘knowingly.'”

Perhaps Holtzclaw should read the bill himself. While the law does use “knowingly,” it uses other words as well. Section 13(c) makes it a Class C Felony (1 to 10 years in prison) to:

Transport, or attempt to transport, or conspire to transport in this state an alien in furtherance of the unlawful presence of the alien in the United States, knowingly, or in reckless disregard of the fact, that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of federal law. Conspiracy to be so transported shall be a violation of this subdivision.

Section 3(9) defines knowingly

KNOWS or KNOWINGLY. A person acts knowingly or with knowledge with respect to either of the following: a. The person’s conduct or to attendant circumstances when the person is aware of the nature of the person’s conduct or that those circumstances exist.
b. A result of the person’s conduct when the person is reasonably aware that the person’s conduct is likely to cause that result.

“Knowingly” is not limited to actual knowledge but is much broader than Holtzclaw intimates. “Knowledge” can be evidenced by “attendant circumstances” (i.e. the person does not speak English; or, if a child, his parents do not speak English; or the person does not have a license or birth certificate). The minister committs a felony if he transports the person with those “attendant circumstances.” Or would a reasonable person think the immigrant was illegal based upon the “attendant circumstances,”  if so, the person could be guilty of a felony by “recklessly” disregarding those facts.

But let’s take Holtzclaw’s  narrow definition of “knowing” for instance; actual knowledge is a present reality in ministry. For instance, if a illegal immigrant child gets saved at Youth Camp at Panama City Beach and gives his testimony of his conversion and life history thereby publicly admitting his parents brought him to America at age 5, the youth minister now has actual knowledge. Should he leave the child in Florida?

What Holtzclaw does not realize is that for those which regularly minister and interact with Latino communities, the ministers and workers regularly have actual knowledge that the beneficiaries of their ministry are here illegally. To attempt to limit the impact of the statute as Holtzclaw tries is mere naivete. Nevertheless even if those ministers and ministry workers have not been told directly of a person’s immigration status, the presence of the “attendant circumstances” surrounding their relationship, they will certainly be sufficient to make the minister “aware” so as to be prosecuted under this statue.

(The statute seems to conflate the historic definitions of “knowingly” and “reckless disregards” as possible criminal mental states. )