Alabama Governor Approves Immigration Law Change He Opposed

Republican Governor Robert Bentley approved changes to Alabama’s immigration law a day after he said the measure was unacceptable because it requires the state to post online the names of illegal immigrants who are arrested.

The legislation, signed by Bentley today, keeps in place most of a crackdown approved last year that the Obama administration is challenging in court as unconstitutional.

Bentley threatened to reject the measure in a news conference yesterday. He also told reporters he wanted lawmakers to remove a provision of the original law requiring schools to check the citizenship status of students, and to get rid of the new provision about posting names online. Keeping those provisions would damage the state’s image, he said.

Bentley had called a special session of the Legislature, starting yesterday, to revise the legislation. No lawmaker introduced the changes he was seeking.

“It became clear that the Legislature did not have the appetite for addressing further revisions at this time,” Bentley said in a statement today.

Even so, Bentley said, there was “substantial progress” in the legislation.

The original law made it a crime to employ, do business with, or rent to those in the state illegally. The measure approved today clarified what kinds of government transactions required proof of citizenship.

Toughest Law

When signing Alabama’s immigration law last year, Bentley praised it as the toughest in the nation. Calls for change came from churches, farmers and business groups that argued it went too far.

The Justice Department sued Alabama over the law. Courts have temporarily blocked portions of the law, including the schools language. The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit isn’t ruling until the U.S. Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of an immigration law in Arizona. The high court probably will rule by the end of June.

Alabama, which census data last year showed was 3.9 percent Hispanic, compared with 16.3 percent nationwide, is among five states that passed immigration laws last year modeled on Arizona’s 2010 statute.

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