Several state lawmakers are now saying Alabama's new immigration law needs changing, and many of them are the same lawmakers who helped write or vote for the bill. Republican lawmakers are preparing a package of "tweaks" to the bill in time for the general session early next year.
Whatever you do, don't call this change of heart by Republican lawmakers buyer's remorse.
"I believe in the immigration bill," said Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R)-Vestavia Hills, chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. "But when you have something that complicated and that complex, many times you have to go back the next session or 2 or 3 years later and make some changes."
"We made some mistakes in voting for that bill as-is and I've had a lot of people talk to me about making some changes and these are some of the tweaks we need to make to show we're a little more compassionate than the bill shows the state of Alabama being," said Senate Majority Whip Gerald Dial.
What kind of changes? Dial says he wants to exempt licensing boards from some of the strict verification requirements. Right now anyone who's licensed by the state like doctors, insurance brokers, or realtors will have to prove their citizenship every time they renew their license, Dial says that was an unintended consequence.
He also says he'd like to ease the requirements for proving your immigration status when you renew your car tag or drivers license, that could cut down on long lines at county courthouses. He also says he'd like to put in a "Good Samaritan" clause where it wouldn't be a crime to help someone in need, even if they were illegal.
"We'd like to take out the part where the schools have to certify if a kid's legal or illegal. School's have enough to do without making policemen out of our school teachers," Dial said.
The change many business owners have been clamoring for is something like a guest worker or guest visa program to allow migrant workers to keep jobs in farming and construction. But that could prove difficult.
"That's probably a good idea if you could do some kind of program, guest worker program where they could be given legal status to work for periods of time, I think that's a possibility," said Rep. Arthur Payne (R)-Trussville.
"If that was permissible we might look at something like that," Dial said. "But the bottom line you're either legal or illegal. And if you're here illegally, simply because you can pick tomatos and get them to the market cheaper, we can't just turn a deaf ear."
Dial says he hopes to have a bill that includes all of the changes he wants to propose ready by mid-December so he can circulate it to other lawmakers before the session begins in February.
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