US governor signs watered down immigration law

2012-05-18 09:56

The governor of Alabama has signed a watered down version of a tough immigration law as he signalled the need for further revisions.

The controversial measure took effect in the southern US state in September, allowing police to question suspected illegal immigrants about their status and impose fines on employers who hired them.

Other provisions prohibit undocumented workers from receiving public benefits and forbid landlords from renting to them.

This week local lawmakers approved a series of changes that relieved burdens on employers.

Governor Robert Bentley today praised the revisions, saying they made the law more effective, but highlighted the need to further clarify the measure.

“The essence of the law must remain the same, and that is if you live or work in Alabama, you must do so legally,” Bentley, a Republican, said in a statement.

“We must make sure that final revisions to the immigration law make the law more effective, help promote economic growth, ensure fairness, and provide greater clarity on the application of the law,” he added.

Bentley called for scrapping a section of the law that allows school children to be interrogated about their immigration status.

While he said he was supportive of calculating the cost of illegal immigration on Alabama’s public school system, he proposed ensuring that any data collected is done in a “constitutional manner.”

Bentley also dismissed as “counterproductive” a proposed addition to the law that would require the US Department of Homeland Security to publish the names of illegal immigrants who have appeared in court.

Rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center have campaigned against the law, arguing it has caused large numbers of Latino families to flee Alabama.

Earlier this year a federal court blocked provisions of the law that make contracts signed by illegal immigrants unenforceable and forbid them from doing business with state or local agencies.

Immigrant advocates have warned of “a long fight” to overturn the legislation completely.

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