Alabama senators approve immigration bill; protesters arrested

Alabama senators approve immigration bill; protesters arrested

POSTED: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 7:03pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 7:14pm

Alabama senators approved a new bill aimed at improving the state's controversial immigration law Wednesday, but critics said the new measure might make things worse.

Demonstrators protested outside the chambers of the Alabama state House and Senate. Seven of them were arrested, said Justin Cox, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants Rights Project.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's legal director was among those arrested, said Marion Steinfels, a representative of the organization.

Police could not be immediately reached for comment.

The center is one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Alabama's immigration law.

The new immigration bill, known as HB 658, was amended and sent back to the state House Wednesday, said Mike Priar of the Alabama Senate.

The state's governor will have the final say, with the power to sign the bill into law or veto it.

Jeremy King, a spokesman for Gov. Richard Bentley, said Wednesday evening that Bentley had not yet taking a position on the bill, and would not until lawmakers approved the final version.

Wednesday is the last day of Alabama's legislative session.

Alabama's existing law, known as HB 56, has several provisions, including one requiring police who make lawful traffic stops or arrests to try to determine the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally.

A federal appeals court has blocked some components, however, including one requiring Alabama officials to check the immigration status of children in public schools.

Alabama Sen. Dick Brewbaker told CNN that the new bill addresses unintended consequences of the immigration law, including clarifying the types of documents that can serve as a form of official identification.

It does not address parts of the law that are at issue in federal courts, he said.

Critics say the new measure would be even harsher than last year's immigration law.

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