"Alabama's new law will require schools, businesses, and landlords to verify the immigration status of their students, employees and tenants, respectively," Caroline May writes. "Police will be allowed to detain people on suspicion of being in the country illegally and it will be unlawful to give a ride to an undocumented immigrant."
Yes, a simple ride in a car could be verboten.
These various burdens aren't created equal. It is eminently reasonable for law enforcement to check the legal status of anyone it legitimately arrests and incarcerates. It isn't as if doing so imposes an undue burden on criminals found to be here legally. In business, most employers already have a process for new hires. All are required to employ folks eligible to work here. And E-Verify isn't particularly burdensome. It even helps some workers to efficiently prove their status.
But it makes little sense to force educators to collect data on undocumented students, especially since kids here illegally won't be kicked out. Surely administrators, principals and teachers have more pressing tasks than collecting immigration statistics. A prohibition against renting to illegal immigrants also inserts the state into the daily life of Alabamans. It's a role that should be resisted. Do we really want the act of renting out a room for a month -- or subletting an apartment -- to turn into a formal process with more red tape and barriers? Isn't moving painful enough? Plus some landlords, fearing legal sanction, are inevitably going to error on the side of caution by turning down all prospective tenants who are Hispanic. And maybe get fined for that, too, if caught.
Hispanic American citizens are likely to bear the brunt of these immigration laws. How often are white Alabamans going to be forced to prove their citizenship? Nor does it end there. Think of a man, here on a work visa, who is dating an illegal immigrant woman -- that is to say, someone whose parents brought her to this country when she was 7, and has lived in the United States for the last 20 years. Under this law, it is illegal for that man to drive his girlfriend to a doctor's appointment!
There are countless real world examples as sympathetic. This is especially so in immigrant enclaves, where the documented and undocumented often live side by side in the same subculture. Even beyond those enclaves, the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants now living in Alabama have friends, colleagues, and even family members of various races who are here legally. It isn't a crime to knowingly transport someone who smokes marijuana, or cheats on his taxes, or regularly drives drunk, or pirates Hollywood movies. Does it really make sense to criminalize the mere transport of an illegal immigrant? Or ponder this hypothetical. As a Birmingham church group prepares to depart on its annual bible retreat, should it exclude from the communal van the longtime parishioner who is known to her co-religionists to be in the country illegally? These are awful choices to force on people. When legislation results in law-abiding citizens having pangs of conscience, odds are the law is a bad one.