Alabama’s “Papers, Please” Law Gets the Boot

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Photo: KennethLipp (creative commons)

Another nail has been put in the coffin of bigotry in Alabama.  Earlier this week, the draconian anti-immigrant law HB 56, or the “papers, please” law, was essentially gutted thanks to an agreement reached in the case HICA v. Bentley.  Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), an NCLR Affiliate, was the main plaintiff in the case against the state and has been working tirelessly to put an end to HB 56.

Despite numerous warnings from NCLR and other civil rights groups that the law was unconstitutional, it remained on the books.  ¡HICA! was undeterred and worked with several organizations, including NCLR, to challenge it in the courts.  The agreement reached this week, severely limits the racial profiling portion of the law, which allowed Alabama police officers to request the documentation of anyone they suspected of being unauthorized to be in the United States.

Along with Arizona, South Carolina, and Georgia, Alabama has now had its ugly law eliminated. 

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“In light of the Supreme Court decisions on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, we knew that HB 56 was on borrowed time,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO, in a statement. “These anti-immigrant laws that breed discrimination and racial profiling are patently unconstitutional. It’s long past time that Alabama’s law, which was perhaps one of the harshest in the nation, go the way of Arizona’s, South Carolina’s, and Georgia’s—off the books and into history.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which was instrumental in striking the agreement this week, police officers will not be allowed to detain someone during a traffic stop in order to check their immigration status, which was considered one of the most harmful provisions in the law.

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“This is a significant victory because many departments across the state believed the ‘papers, please’ provisions allowed them to detain people just for that purpose,” said the SPLC in a blog post.

More from SPLC:

The following parts of the law have now been permanently blocked:

  • Requiring schools to verify the immigration status of newly enrolled K–12 students
  • Criminalizing the solicitation of work by unauthorized immigrants
  • A provision that made it a crime to provide a ride to undocumented immigrants or to rent to them
  • A provision that infringed on the ability of individuals to contract with someone who was undocumented
  • A provision that criminalized failing to register one’s immigration status

We’re thankful to ¡HICA!, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the several other organizations that have been working diligently to ensure that HB 56 becomes history.  We’re especially proud to call ¡HICA! an Affiliate.  They are to be commended for their tenacity in seeing the worst parts of this wrongheaded and mean-spirited law put to an end.  There are still challenges to be met, however, including guaranteeing that Alabama police work within the confines of the agreement and do not engage in racial profiling.  ¡HICA! and SPLC will continue working feverishly to see that happen.  Still, this is a significant victory that deserves celebration.

Thank you ¡HICA! for continuing the fight for civil rights for all!

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