Yesterday, the state of Alabama filed a motion asking the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear arguments about the state's worst-in-the-nation anti-immigration law. The Alabama law, HB 56, made international news for targeting schoolchildren in an overzealous attempt to make their undocumented parents self-deport. Alabama's appeal comes after a three judge panel from the 11th Circuit ruled in August that major provisions of the law are unconstitutional, including one that the Montgomery Advertiserdescribes as:
requires students to provide documentation of their birth, either through a birth certificate or a sworn statement from parents as to the child's status. If the child or parents do not provide such documentation, the student is counted unlawfully present.
"Instead of turning its sights on Congress and pressing the need for comprehensive, federal immigration reform, Alabama's Republican leaders continue to double down on these mean-spirited policies, and waste taxpayer money on expensive lawsuits," said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America's Voice.
In addition to continuing to challenge lawsuits brought to protect the Constitution from the state's overreach, a University of Alabama economist has estimated the price tag of the state's law to be a whopping $11 billion. This doesn't even get into the intangible costs to Alabama's reputation across the nation and the world, as the immigration debate there becomes a new expression of the state's ugly history on civil rights.
We are filing this based on principle. As the governor of Alabama, I have a duty to uphold and defend Alabama law. Federal courts should not restrain state governments in a way that is contrary to the U.S. Constitution.
The courts have already spoken and said that these provisions of Alabama's law are unconstitutional. It seems the only 'principle' Governor Bentley is fighting to uphold is the right to ask children for their papers. Is that really the type of country we want to be?
According to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the answer is "yes." Alabama's law was written by Romney immigration advisor Kris Kobach, and is based on the same strategy of "self-deportation" that Romney has embraced since the Republican primary. This policy was reflected in the GOP platform at the Republican convention last month, and continues to be the Party's stated position on what to do about the status of the 11 million men, women, and children currently living in America without papers.
Governor Bentley and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer are giving us a preview into what life would look like under Mitt Romney's self-deportation policy. It's a frightening picture of a society that pits children against their parents and neighbor against neighbor. By continuing down this path they are not only hurting their states, but also clarifying the stakes for all of us in November.