Now that the nomenclature is clear, let’s state the obvious:
HB658 is just as bad, if not worse, than its predecessor. Gov. Robert Bentley signed it into law last week, causing Alabama’s numerous detractors to tee off again on a state that must love giving them fuel from which they can pose their critiques.
Don’t misunderstand: The worst part of HB658 isn’t the bad PR; it’s the xenophobic policies that now are Alabama law, thanks to legislators such as Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, and Bentley himself, who didn’t get the changes he wanted in the HB56 rewrite but signed the new bill into law because, he said, “it became clear that the Legislature did not have the appetite for addressing further revisions at this time.” Additionally, signing the bill would “remove the distraction of immigration from the other business of the special session.”
That’s leadership, Bentley-style.
As for that bad PR, well, Alabama’s got more than it can handle.
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times editorial board added to the state’s PR nightmare with an editorial, “Alabama’s bad road on immigration,” that used the law’s own misdeeds to paint a demoralizing picture of a Southern state whose lawmakers have made a string of horrible choices.
On the portion of the law that calls for the names of undocumented immigrants who appear in court for violations of any state law to be published on the official state website, the Times wrote, “It’s hard to imagine what useful purpose such information might provide other than to shame immigrants and to allow anti-immigrant groups to exert pressure on judges.”
On the portion of the law that mandates annual progress reports on illegal immigration from the state’s Department of Homeland Security, the Times wrote, “That will make little difference in the life of most Alabamians, since less than 2 percent of the state’s residents are believed to be in the country illegally.”
In closing, the Times reiterated the opinions of the bill’s growing number of critics. “Sadly, the Alabama Legislature once again proved itself incapable of embarrassment. How else can it say the revisions were needed to protect residents and save jobs? The only thing lawmakers and the governor achieved with HB658 was to add another dark chapter to Alabama’s troubled history.”
Alabamians can give this law whatever name they want. But regardless of its title, it remains exactly what the Times called it — a dark chapter in this state’s history.