The Alabama Senate on Wednesday morning this morning approved revisions to its controversial immigration law, HB 56, which had propelled the state into the middle of an already-heated debate over illegal immigration.
The revisions come amid scrutiny over the legislation that some say has forced Hispanics to withdraw in fear, causing severe consequences across the state’s economy and schools.
The original legislation included a “reasonable suspicion” provision allowing law enforcement to detail suspected illegal immigrants during traffic stops, a provision to ask new students for proof of citizenship, and severe penalties for businesses that hired undocumented workers.
Since the law passed in June 2011, the state’s agricultural business has seen adverse effects, including rotting crops, because of labor shortages in the fields. The Associated Press reported that some farmers were scaling back on acreage and crops this year to accommodate for the labor shortage.
According to the Justice Department, the state’s school system has also seen an unprecedented increase in withdrawals during this school year, with 13.4 percent of Hispanic children dropping out by February since the beginning of the school year, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The increase in withdrawals prompted the Justice Department to warn the state about the law’s “continuing and lasting” effects on Hispanic children, as well as the possibility of “discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.”
The state House last month approved revisions to the bill, including allowing judges to waive some business penalties.
The Senate’s more-stringent version left the legislation largely the same, but removed the provision allowing the state's Homeland Security Department to demand proof of compliance from businesses charged with hiring illegal immigrants. It also now allows residents to use a voter identification card or credit card as a secondary form of valid ID.
The Senate's version will go to the House to be either accepted or sent to conference committee.