Alabama State Immigration Laws
In 2011, Alabama passed some comprehensive, and controversial laws covering many arenas of daily life. However, litigation at the state and federal level has followed, raising questions about a number of the provisions of Alabama law. Below you will find information on some of the rules the state has regarding immigration checks by law enforcement, educational institutions, and employers, as well as the existence of E-Verify requirements, restrictions on public benefits based on an individual's immigration status, and more. Please be sure to check with local authorities or a qualified local attorney for more comprehensive information and the latest developments with respect to the law, as many of the provisions below are subject to court challenges and some have been blocked.
Law Enforcement and Immigration in Alabama
One key, and controversial, aspect of Alabama's new immigration laws is a requirement that law enforcement officers make an attempt to determine the immigration status of individuals subject to arrest, detention or a traffic stop whenever "reasonable suspicion exists that a person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States". Additionally, under a federal program, all individuals arrested are fingerprinted and run through a database which checks their immigration status individually.
Alabama's new immigration prohibits all employers in the state from knowingly hiring and employing unauthorized aliens. The penalties for violating these provisions typically target employers' licenses to conduct business in the state. Employers also face tax consequences related to the payment of wages to unauthorized aliens. Unauthorized aliens themselves are prohibited from seeking and performing work under another provision.
The laws also make it a discriminatory practice for an employer to fail to hire, or fire, a U.S. citizen or authorized worker while retaining or hiring an individual the employer knows or should have known is an unauthorized worker. Further, under federal law, employers should refer to federal employment eligibility verification rules, as well as the requirements for Form I-9.
Alabama E-Verify Requirements
As part of Alabama's tough new immigration laws, the state now requires that all employers, public or private, use E-Verify to confirm that new hires are authorized to work.
Driver's License/ID Requirements
The new law requires that law enforcement officers arrest and check the immigration status of individuals who are caught driving without a license. Illegal immigrants are not allowed to receive driver's licenses in Alabama.
Public Benefits Restrictions
Alabama law also touches on the issue of public benefits. Specifically, it bars illegal immigrants, with some exceptions under federal laws, from receiving any state or local public benefits. The law does create some exceptions clarifying that verification of lawful presence in the country is not required for certain public benefits such as public health assistance, immunization, crisis assistance, and similar public benefits. Federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits, although they are allowed to receive emergency services, health care, and other programs that have been identified as "necessary to protect life and safety."
One of the most controversial aspects of Alabama's new immigration law is a requirement that public schools run checks on the immigration status of students in order to collect and track data. However, it should be noted that the law does not bar illegal immigrants or their children from attending schools.
Voter ID Rules
Current Alabama law requires photo or non-photo identification in order to vote. A wide variety of documents can be used to establish identity including driver's licenses, state ID's, Social Security cards, gun permits, state hunting permits, utility bills, bank statements, and more.
Under Alabama's new voter ID Law, which takes effect in 2014, a valid photo ID will be required prior to voting. Some examples include drivers' licenses, passports, military ID's, and student ID's.
Under either law, voters unable to provide acceptable ID must be allowed to vote using a provisional ballot, with identity verification made by election officials.
Housing Ordinances and Immigration
Under Alabama's recently passed law it is illegal to knowingly, or in reckless disregard, rent a dwelling to illegal immigrants.
Other Immigration Rules
Alabama's recent legislation is one of the toughest and most comprehensive pieces of immigration to be passed by any individual state. Additional provisions of the law address a variety of matters, including:
- prohibitions against most contracts entered into by unauthorized immigrants;
- bars on "business transactions" with the state;
- criminalizing illegal immigrants' failure to carry registration documents (currently blocked by court challenge).
These are some, but not all topics covered by Alabama's immigration law. As noted above, many of the provisions above are currently subject to challenges in court and it may be some time before the law on these issues becomes clear. For up-to-date and comprehensive information, you may wish to contact a local attorney specializing in immigration law.