Alabama nears final approval of immigration crackdown

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:31pm EDT

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks during a news conference at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile, Alabama February 24, 2011. REUTERS/ Lyle W. Ratliff

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks during a news conference at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile, Alabama February 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/ Lyle W. Ratliff

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters)- Following in the footsteps of the Alabama House of Representatives, the state Senate on Thursday passed a measure to crackdown on illegal immigration, bringing the measure close to becoming law.

If minor differences between versions of the bill are ironed out and Republican Governor Robert Bentley signs it, Alabama would join a handful of states enacting major immigration legislation this year.

The Alabama law is similar to an Arizona measure that stirred national controversy and was blocked in the courts. Like Arizona, Alabama state and local police would have broad powers to check the immigration status of people detained on other charges.

Under the Alabama legislation harboring, concealing, transporting or employing illegal immigrants would be against the law and any employer doing business with the state will be required to check the legal status of workers.

The bill passed the Senate by a 26 to 6 vote.

"This bill is about job creation to ensure that Alabamians who want a job will get a job and won't be denied in lieu of an illegal immigrant or fired to hire an illegal immigrant," said bill sponsor, Republican Senator Scott Beason.

The bill extends into housing issues, requiring landlords to refuse rentals or even evict people who are found to be illegal immigrants.

"Lots of people will be instantly homeless because landlords who rent to illegals will become felons," said Helen Rivas, a civil rights advocate.

Rights groups are concerned that it would lead to racial profiling in the state, which has a long history of civil rights violations, and infringe the federal government's duty to enforce immigration laws.

Under the bill, the children of illegal immigrants could be restricted from participating in extracurricular activities at school and from benefiting from in-state college tuition.

The bill returns to the House to be approved, amended or merged with the House bill passed last week, and then goes to the governor.

In the absence of federal immigration reform, a few states have followed Arizona in enacting immigration laws. Utah passed sweeping immigration legislation this year and an immigration measure is awaiting the signature of Georgia's Republican governor. Proposals are moving through the legislatures of several other states.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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