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Many Alabama employees aren’t being screened to confirm their legal status to work in the United States, despite a 2011 state law requiring businesses to use the federal E-Verity system.
A recent report in the publication Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, said only 60 percent of new Alabama hires were screened with E-Verify in the year ending in June 2017. That’s up from 14 percent in 2011, before the state’s anti-illegal immigration law went into effect.
Now, state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, proposes requiring employers to prove their E-Verify usage before obtaining business licenses. He has a bill ready for the 2019 legislative session that mirrors a law in Georgia, where 94 percent of employees were screened through E-Verify, according to Pew.
Orr recently said there will always be bad actors who don’t follow the law, but he thinks some businesses are simply ignorant about it.
“They don’t know about the law or don’t think it applies to them,” Orr said. “Until someone is telling them or reminding them, they’ll continue to be ignorant.”
Jay Town, one of the three Trump administration-appointed U.S. attorneys for Alabama, indicates there should be no mystery about his priorities in the Northern District of Alabama. They closely align with those outlined by the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he said.
“I think that General Sessions and the department made it very clear before I was sworn what the priorities of the department and, especially the criminal division, were,” Town said. “So, it’s guns, it’s dope, it’s illegal immigration, it is opioids. And we are executing those priorities very well.
“We recently released our fiscal ’17 numbers, and in all of those areas we had very robust numbers in terms of our prosecutions last year in comparison to the previous year and years.”
Town’s jurisdiction is centered in Birmingham, the state’s most populous city in its largest metro area, and encompasses the Huntsville-Madison County area, a hub of U.S. government work.
His office’s priorities reflect some of the problems endemic to this part of the state. Town said that, while priorities are shared among the 93 U.S. attorneys, “The way we are executing them, perhaps, is a little different.”
Lipscomb Elementary School, tucked away on a quiet neighborhood street, does not draw a lot of attention to itself. Its enrollment numbers, however, show a dramatic story of Alabama’s growing Hispanic population.
The school in the Jefferson County school system is a plain red-brick complex near Bessemer, Birmingham and Brighton and Midfield. It serves grades K-5, and is a Title I school. That means most of its students are from low-income families and need additional resources, primarily in math and English, so they can learn on the same level as their better-off counterparts elsewhere in the system.
Fifteen years ago, Lipscomb had 188 students, most of them black, with a handful of whites. Today it has 254 students, and the enrollment is almost evenly split among Hispanics and blacks. Most of the Hispanic students are U.S.-born, mostly of Mexican heritage, and about 80 of them are taking English as a Second Language classes.
Reflecting the growing Hispanic presence in its classrooms and hallways, Lipscomb held Hispanic heritage month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 last year. During that month, the children danced and sampled food prepared by parents of some of their fellow students; each classroom did research on a Spanish-speaking country south of the border.
Lipscomb recently observed Black History Month, and principal Reta Hayes says its chief lesson was “that even though we may be all of different cultures, and (though) we may be of different colors overall, we are still one big happy family.”
Different cultures and colors have been a growing fact of life in Alabama public schools in recent decades. Enrollment figures from the state Department of Education for the current academic year show nearly 727,000 students in K-12, a decline of 11 percent over last year due to a drop in both white and black enrollment. Statewide Hispanic/Latino numbers, however, showed an increase, rising 6 percent over last year to total 57,817, or about 8 percent of the total K-12 enrollment. In 2000-01, the K-12 Hispanic total was 9,541, or about 16 percent of the current figure.
They’re voters, for sure. But I’ve told people in my campaign, “Don’t expect me to pass a litmus test for one side or the other.” I continue to get asked, “Are you liberal, conservative, moderate, progressive, what?” And I say, “Don’t label me! I’m Doug, and I’m going to vote the way I feel. I’m certainly not going to pass the far left’s litmus test any more than I’m going to pass the far right’s litmus tests. Read more.
Alabama legislators kick-started their session last week, with committees approving bills on abortion, sanctuary campuses and death penalty sentences, among other topics. Those bills could go to the floor of the House or Senate this week.
The governor’s recommendations for the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets also were introduced last week but have yet to come up for a vote. Read more.
WASHINGTON — The House on March 27 voted 242 for and 187 against a bill (HR 7) that would expand federal prohibitions on paycheck discrimination based on gender while giving women additional legal tools for obtaining equal pay for substantially equal work. The bill now goes to the Senate.
The vote was largely along party lines, including members representing Alabama. U.S. Rep Terry Sewell, D-Birmingham was the lone yes vote in the state’s delegation. Read more.
A bill in the Alabama Senate is seeking to tighten up the rules when it comes to companies screening potentially illegal workers through the federal E-Verify system.
Senate Bill 71 from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would require businesses with five or more employees to swear via affidavit to their usage of the E-Verify system before they could receive a city or county business license. Under the bill, the affidavit would be supplied by the Attorney General’s Office, and noncompliance would be a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Companies already are required to use the E-Verify system under a mandate from the state’s 2011 anti-illegal immigration law. However, only 60 percent of new Alabama hires had their legal status to work confirmed by E-Verify in 2017, according to a report in Stateline, a publication of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Orr said he modeled the bill after a law in Georgia, where up to 94 percent of new workers now are screened through E-Verify. Read more.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate on March 14 narrowly voted to nullify a national emergency President Trump he declared on the southwest border over immigration concerns. Trump vetoed the resolution, which previously had passed it. The veto will go back to Congress for a vote on a possible override after representatives return from spring break. The House is expected to vote on it March 26. From Alabama, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby voted against the veto and Democrat Doug Jones voted for it. Read more.
Bills to expand the list of people who must request federal background checks on individuals before selling guns to them split Alabama’s congressional delegation along the usual party lines last week.
Democrat Rep. Terri Sewell of Birmingham voted for that bill while the Republicans voted against it. Alabama’s representatives also split along party lines on other gun-related bills. Read more.
Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race in November, is delivering the Democrats’ response to President Trump’s State of the Union address. Reporters across the NPR newsroom are annotating her remarks, adding context and analysis.