MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — More than 20 people spoke at a public hearing on a bill to make changes to Alabama's "toughest in the nation" immigration law.
Many of the speakers at Wednesday's meeting of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee said the changes do not go far enough to fix what some called Alabama's "terrible immigration law." Many wanted legislators to repeal the original immigration law.
The opponents said the immigration law was turning citizens who want to be Good Samaritans and help someone stranded on the side of the road into potential law breakers. Steve Jones, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, said the bill does not reflect the values of most Alabama residents,
"Alabama has a reputation as one of the most religious states in the nation. I don't think this bill reflects who we are in Alabama," Jones said.
Opponents of the law mostly dominated the hearing, but several people said they don't want to see the original bill changed.
Committee chairman Republican Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur said he expects the panel to vote on the bill next week.
Hammon's legislation was one of two immigration bills up for consideration in legislative committees Wednesday. A bill by Democratic Sen. Billy Beasley of Clayton would repeal the immigration law all together.
Beasley told a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee the immigration law needs to be repealed because "it was not a good law for the state." Beasley said the law has created a climate of fear for immigrant families, particularly children. The Senate committee did not immediately vote on Beasley's bill.
At the hearing on the House bill, Jennifer Brooks of Auburn said the effect of the immigration bill is being felt by her 8-year-old daughter, who is Chinese.
"Her classmates have started making fun of her because she's from China. It's the first time that has ever happened," Brooks said. She said she feels the teasing has been caused by the climate created by the immigration law.'
Not all the speakers were against the immigration law.
Elois Zeanah of Tuscaloosa, president of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women, told legislators "to show courage and character" and not change the immigration law until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Arizona's immigration law. She called efforts to fix the law "political correctness gone awry."