Once again, House Majority Leader Republican Mickey Hammon, Republican Senator Holtzclaw and their fellow Republican legislators are defending their Alabama Anti-Immigration Bill by using the same  worn-out talking-points: (1) “Only evil ‘liberals’ oppose this law and (2) “The people are not reading the law right.”

According to this article entitled “Politicians say public misunderstands immigration law,”

House Majority Leader Mickey Hammon, R-Decatur, who co-authored the Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act with State. Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, issued a statement Friday afternoon in response to the lawsuit. He said it was no surprise that “liberal groups working to shield those who live here illegally” are working to block implementation of the law.

True, if you define “liberal groups” to include Southern Baptists, Republican Congressmen (here and here), Republican-appointed Federal judges, and most newspaper editorial boards across the state, to only name a few. Maybe, the mind-numbing conservative/liberal labeling will cease if this crowd continues to tell enough critics of this law that they are not “conservative.”

However, when the “liberal” label fails, they always employ their special decoder ring argument to claim everyone is misreading the law.

Two Limestone County political leaders — State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison and Rep. Dan Williams, R-Athens — said they weren’t surprised by the lawsuit, but expressed frustration about what they called public misunderstanding of the law.

Williams said he’s heard from two or three religious leaders who fear the law will impede their outreach work while making “lawbreakers” out of them. However, he said he fails to see how the law criminalizes the work of churches in the community.

“The law only says if you’re aiding and abetting illegals or giving them rides to evade the law,” he said. “The law, as far as I can see, doesn’t have anything to do with doing a good deed for folks. You’re not going to be arrested for giving someone a ride to vacation Bible school.”

Williams said there is an effort being made on the part of some of the state’s religious leaders to raise opposition against the bill. He said those same leaders were quiet about their concerns when the bill was being considered in the House and Senate.

“They failed to fight it when it came up,” he said. “Everything I read now when they talk about the bill is misquoted. They need to quote it like it says.”

Everyone reads this bill wrong! Evidently, only the Republican legislators were provided the secret decoder. Senator Holzclaw has tried this line of argument before; last time, he told everyone to read the bill. We did and then showed that the  Senator did not fully understand the definitions as contained in the statute. Does the public misunderstand the law still? Does the law merely outlaw “aiding and abetting” as stated by Rep. Williams. Let’s read the bill, again, and quote it like it says.

Rep. Williams demonstrates that he does not understand the effect of the words actually used in the statute. He is correct, partially.  The law does expressly incorporate the inchoate crimes of attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy. While the Anti-immigration bill does not expressly outlaw “aiding and abetting;”  such could be presecuted through the regular criminal code, Section 13A-2-23, which generally makes:

A person is legally accountable for the behavior of another constituting a criminal offense if, with the intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense: . . . (2) He aids or abets such other person in committing the offense.

But can a person be arrested for merely giving someone a ride to vacation Bible school? Yes. Because the legislation also specifically criminalizes it strictly:

Section 13. (a) It shall be unlawful for a person to do any of the following: . . .

(3) Transport . . .  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.

First, No express mens rea modifies transport. If the statute employed the words “transports corruptly,” then Rep. Williams’ argument would be correct because an criminal purpose would apply; but they did not include any such word.  The word is “knowlingly”, as broadly defined in the statute, exclusively applies to the alien status of the person and not to transport.

Basically, this statute creates a strict liability crime if you transport an undocumented immigrant and know or have reason to believe they are so.

Perhaps understandly, Rep. Williams reads too much into the phrase “in futherance of the unlawful presence.”  The phrase “in furtherance of the unlawful presence” does not alter or require a mens rea, a criminal mental state, though.  This language does not require a criminal intent to harbor or hide an undocumented illegal. The natural meaning of “in furtherance of” is “furthering, advancing or helping forward.” United States v. Hector, 474 F.3d 1150, 1157 (9th Cir.2007). The government can establish that a defendant has promoted or facilitated an undocumented person’s unlawful presence if any “nexus” between the transportation and their unlawful presence is shown.  Rep. Williams implies that, in order to obtain a conviction under the “in furtherance of” language, the government must show that the defendant intended to hide or traffick the person by transporting them.  Such narrow reading was specifically rejected in US v. Mahen, 586 F.3d 1185.  In Mahen, the court interpreted this exact phrase and found express intent unnecesary to convict.   By the implications of the statute,  any support provided to a alien “encourages” their unlawful presence. Remember: this legislation is supposed to “attack every area of the illegal alien’s life.” Special exceptions had to be expressly added for food banks, DHR social workers, and EMTs because any assistance only enables them to stay here. Without the exceptions, services by food banks would “further their unlawful presence;” DHR workers would advance the illegality by protecting domestic violence victims; and EMTs would “help forward” illegals by providing emergency services to them.

Does transporting and undocumented alien to vacation bible school further or advance their unlawful presence. Certainly: the transportionation furthers the illegal immigrant’s maintenance of community connections and networks, the development of English-languageskills, and the establishment of roots. Here is your “nexus” between the transportation and their unlawful presence. The “overt act” plus “knowledge” of the undocumented status and these consequences are all it takes to satisfy the necessary nexus.

But then again, I have not received my decoder ring yet in the mail. Now that a lawsuit has been filed, perhaps, the federal judge in the Northern District of Alabama will receive hers ring in time.

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