Alabama is the most recent state to propose an immigration package similar to the Arizona laws passed last year, following the recent package passed in Utah. A group of protesters gathered at the Statehouse Thursday, March 10, to state their objections to the bill includes two worrisome provisions. The first provision allows police to detain illegal immigrants for up to a year and to penalize employers if they are unable to verify the immigration status of their employees. Even more concerning is the second provision, which builds upon the first: it states that authorities may detain any individual they deem “reasonably suspicious” of being illegal. The language of the bill is ambiguous and does not define what “reasonably suspicious” specifically means.
Local immigrants fear being detained despite their legal status. Protesters displayed signs at the Statehouse that included “Stop Juan Crow,” a reference to the Jim Crow laws enacted in state and local legislatures between 1876 and 1965 that widely discriminated against poor and minority groups. Despite this, the ACLU of Alabama says the bill is unconstitutional and a waste of tax dollars. The U.S. Justice Department sued the State of Arizona over their immigration package the passed last year, blocking some of the package’s provisions, including the one allowing police to detain “reasonably suspicious” individual. Protesters say similar lawsuits are waiting to be filed if the bill passes. The bill passed a House committee and is waiting to go before the full House when the Legislature reconvenes on March 22.