Peterson Beadle on Feb 8, 2012 at 9:45 am

Because a portion of Alabama’s harmful immigration law makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to enter into a “business transaction” with the state, some public utility companies have interpreted this measure so broadly that they have prevented undocumented immigrants from receiving water or power at their homes. And a library has even required people show proof of citizenship before they can sign up for a library card because of the “business transactions” provision.

Now U.S.-born children with undocumented immigrant parents even have been denied food stamps because of this portion of the anti-immigrant law. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that five people have called the group’s hotline to report that they were denied food stamps under the law because of their immigration status even though the benefits are for their American citizen children. SPLC President Richard Cohen said the civil rights group is considering suing the state over the denial of food stamps because of the “business transactions” portion in HB 56. Barry Spear, a spokesman for Alabama’s Department of Human Services, told Yahoo News that demanding proof of citizenship from the guardians of Americans who need food stamps is not the agency’s policy. “We are unaware of any violations of the policy,” Spear said.

But last month, Kansas changed its food aid program to deny benefits to children who are citizens if their parents are undocumented, removing more than 1,000 mixed families. “This policy not only hurts these families, it hurts us, too, especially because we’re talking about U.S. citizen children,” said Elena Morales, who works at El Center, an anti-poverty agency in Kansas City.

In the U.S., roughly 4.5 million American citizens under 18 years old have at least one undocumented parent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. So while undocumented immigrants cannot access most welfare programs, their children are still able to access the programs as citizens. Policies like the one in Kansas and the interpretation of Alabama’s immigration law only serves to harm these American citizens who, through no fault of their own, happen to have undocumented parents.



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NEWS FLASH

50,000+ Sign Petition For Undocumented Immigrant To Receive Kidney Transplant | In less than a week, more than 54,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to push the UC San Francisco Medical Center to allow an undocumented immigrant to have a kidney transplant. ThinkProgress wrote last week about how administrators at the medical center denied Jesus Navarro’s procedure, even though his wife offered her own kidney and he will die without the procedure. “UCSF hospital has told Jesus that the only reason he would not be able to get a transplant is becuase of his immigration status,” writes Donald Kagan, who started the petition on February 2. “As I see it, this is a matter of life and death.” The petition calls on hospital officials to allow the transplant and “do the right thing.” Sign the petition here.

By Amanda Peterson Beadle on Feb 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Justice

Alabama GOPer Pushes Bills Repealing Some Of The Worst Parts Of Anti-Immigrant Law

By Amanda Peterson Beadle on Feb 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm

When Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) and Attorney General Luther Strange (R) both called for changes to the state’s anti-immigrant law last year, it was a hopeful sign that the state might roll back the law’s most harmful effects. According to one projection, the state GDP could decline by $2.3 to $10.8 billion because of HB 56, and the state could lose up to 140,000 jobs.

And state Sen. Gerald Dial (R) agreed with the governor and attorney general and other legislators who called for changes to the law. “It’s just common sense. Let’s step up and say we’ve made some mistakes,” Dial said in November. Now he has filed a bill that proposes some of the broadest changes to HB 56 that, while far from perfect, would address some of the most harmful aspects of HB 56:

  • Would Not Require Schools To Collect Data: Dial’s bill removes a provision that requires schools to collect data about the citizenship or legal resident status of newly enrolled students. Following the implementation of HB 56, schools reported a spike in absenteeism among Latino students because some current students feared that their parents could be deported if they were asked about their citizenship.
  • Redefines “Business Transaction”: HB 56 includes a measure that prevents the state from entering into a “business transaction” with undocumented immigrants. Some public utility companies took this to mean that they could not provide service to anyone who cannot prove they are a citizen or legally in the United States. It effectively made it a felony for undocumented immigrants to take a bath in their own homes. Dial’s bill redefines “business transaction” more narrowly to include issues related to driver’s licenses or non-driver identification cards, license plates, or business licenses.

Dial’s bill also repeals a provision that would deny bail to undocumented immigrants, but he does not propose any changes to a section of the law that requires Alabama police officers “to ask for immigration papers from anyone they come in contact with who looks or sounds foreign.” The Supreme Court will hold a hearing this spring on SB 1070, Arizona’s extreme immigration law with the same “papers, please” requirement as Alabama’s law.

Fully repealing the state’s immigration law — Democrats have filed bills in the Alabama House and Senate to do just that –would be the best option for Alabama. But that option is unlikely while Republicans control the Alabama legislature along with a Republican governor. Nevertheless, Dial’s bills are an important admission that the state erred when enacted HB 56′s declaration of war on immigrants — the state should not hesitate one second before rolling back as much of the law as it can.

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