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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.
When newly elected Neil Rafferty takes his place in the Alabama House of Representatives next year, he will be the only white Democrat in the 105-seat chamber
With one other white Democrat in the Senate, the Alabama Legislature’s two parties are almost entirely divided by race. An all-white GOP has a supermajority.
“You can’t deny the optics at times,” Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said about the party and racial split. He’s been a lawmaker since 2006 and has seen the racial polarization increase as the white Democrats dwindled in numbers.
Less than 10 years ago, in the 2006-2010 term, there were 62 Democrats in the House. More than half of them were white, said House public information officer Clay Redden. Now, there are 28 Democrats total. Republicans picked up five more seats in last week’s election.
In all, more than 75 percent of the members of the Legislature were white less than a decade ago, and more than 60 percent were Democrats, according to an analysis done at the time by The Birmingham News.
Being the minority race in the minority party isn’t something Rafferty, D-Birmingham, said he’s thought too much about.
“I’m going to go down there with humility and an eagerness and willingness to work with my colleagues, all of my colleagues, for the betterment of the state and House District 54,” he said last week.
But race has been an issue in the Statehouse in recent years.
England is concerned that, without diversity among parties, all issues begin to be viewed in a racial context.
“Racial issues are important, they are, but not everything is racial,” he said. “You don’t want everything to be painted with a broad brush because of the messenger and lose the message.” Read more.
Barely 12 hours after the smoke had cleared from the 2018 mid-term elections, another political bomb exploded Wednesday afternoon when news came that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had resigned at the request of President Donald Trump.
That Sessions was on his way out was not a shock. The former U.S. senator from Mobile had been one of the first well-known supporters of Trump in the presidential campaign. But shortly after he took the cabinet position, he became a thorn in Trump’s side by recusing himself from supervising the investigation into collusion by Russia during the 2016 election.
Trump chafed at the move by Sessions both publicly and privately, accusing Sessions of being disloyal and not acting in Trump’s defense. The rift grew during the two years Sessions served in the post.
Sessions’ departure had been expected for months, though political advisers told Trump to wait until after the mid-terms. He did so, barely — Sessions was told by Chief of Staff Mike Kelly to hand in his resignation on Wednesday afternoon, and he did.
Reaction to Sessions’ stepping down was quick, most of it praising Sessions or speculating on his next moves and what they could mean for politics in the state. Read more.
BirminghamWatch Recommends: A Roundup of Stories on Sessions’ Firing
Jeff Sessions Executed the Agenda of a President Who Could Not Look Past a Betrayal (New York Times)
Jeff Sessions Pushed out After a Year of Attacks From Trump (Associated Press)
How Sessions’s Firing Could Affect the Russia Investigation (New York Times)
‘You’re Fired:’ A Timeline of Team Trump Departures (Washington Post)
Despite the city’s rising homicide rate and a recent rash of highly publicized violent crimes, Birmingham-area law enforcement officials say they are optimistic about the city’s long-term crime-fighting prospects, due in part to an array of government agencies working together.
After a violent start to September, which saw seven homicides in its first eight days, Birmingham is on track to have its deadliest year in decades. As of Sept. 20, there have been 86 reported homicides this year, compared to the 79 counted at this point last year, which was the deadliest year for the city since 1994.
“It’s too high for sure,” said Jay Town, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, which is centered in Birmingham. “It makes you wonder if we weren’t putting all of this effort … I shudder to think where those numbers might be.”
Town, who has been on the job for roughly 13 months, said he has worked to develop a “vertical” model of law enforcement that includes federal, state, county and local departments. It’s a model, he said, that can serve as a crime-fighting method going forward.
“The only promise I can make is that we are establishing long-term processes, and it takes time,” he said. “As much as we would like in the Magic City to have crime disappear overnight, we are taking the painstaking efforts to make sure that there are systems and methods and processes in place that are going to last a lot longer than any of us.” Read more.
Six homicides happened in Birmingham during the first week of September, putting the city firmly on track for its most violent year in more than two decades and pressuring city leaders to improve their strategies for responding to such incidents and to focus on preventing them.
The first homicide of the month was the highly publicized death of 16-year-old Woodlawn High School student Will Edwards, who was killed in his North East Lake home just after midnight Sept. 1. The following evening, seven teenagers were shot during a gunfight at the downtown music venue WorkPlay, though none were killed.
Mayor Randall Woodfin described the weekend’s incidents of youth violence as a “devastating blow to our community.”
By the end of the first week, five more homicides had been reported by the Birmingham Police Department, four of which happened within a 24-hour period. Just minutes after the week ended, the city already had logged its first homicide of week two. It wasn’t the most homicides that have taken place in a single week this year — that would be an eight-homicide stretch between July 29 and August 4 — but it has placed Birmingham firmly on track to have its deadliest year in recent memory.
WASHINGTON – Alabama’s senators, Republican Richard Shelby and Democrat Doug Jones, were united this week on nominees who went to the Senate for confirmation. Here’s a breakdown of the votes during the week ending Aug. 31. Read more.