On April 5, the Republican leadership of Alabama’s House of Representatives introduced a new bill HB 658 to tweak Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation immigration law (HB 56) in ways that they believe with strengthen it. The new bill proposes a whole host of changes that the House Speaker Mike Hubbard says are designed to make the law easier to enforce and more likely to withstand constitutional challenge.
Last year, Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile and Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, alongside an ecumenical group of church leaders, sued the state of Alabama to block enforcement of parts of HB 56. One portion of the law of particular concern was the harboring provision, which is so broad that it could criminalize many church ministries that provide shelter or other humanitarian assistance to undocumented immigrants and could violate the religious freedom of every Christian by making it a crime to follow God’s command to be a Good Samaritan. The harboring section of Alabama’s immigration law has been temporarily blocked by a federal court.
On Tuesday, April 17, HB 658 passed out of the Alabama House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee with several amendments, one of which adds the following language to the harboring provision: “Nothing in this section would prevent a church or church-affiliated organization, or an agent or officer of a church or church-affiliated organization, from ministering to or providing material goods or services to all individuals, regardless of immigration status.” HB 658 §31-13-13(a)(3).
CLINIC will continue to update its network with analyses of this new bill. For more information, contact CLINIC’s State and Local Advocacy Attorney, Karen Siciliano Lucas at firstname.lastname@example.org.