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APNewsBreak: Tough US immigration law questioned

APNewsBreak: US state's top lawyer recommends changes to toughest immigration law By The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) ' The top legal official in the U.S. state with the country's toughest immigration law has suggested throwing out parts of the law after challenges by the federal government and strong protests by rights and business groups.

In a letter to legislative leaders, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said the proposed changes would make the law "easier to defend in court" and "remove burdens on law-abiding citizens."

The letter, sent last week and acquired by The Associated Press, represents the first time the attorney general has expressed concerns since he started defending the law against a federal court challenge filed by about 30 organizations and individuals.



The law is considered by both opponents and supporters as the toughest in the U.S. against illegal immigrants.

The state Legislature passed the law to scare off illegal immigrants and open up jobs in a state suffering from more than 9 percent unemployment. The law took effect in late September, except for provisions put on hold temporarily by federal courts.

Some immigrants then fled the state, and some employers found they couldn't find people to fill the jobs they left behind.

Governor Robert Bentley on Monday said he is concerned the law might be affecting industrial recruitment. He said the law needs simplifying, but it shouldn't be repealed.

And a leading business organization in Alabama's largest urban area called for revisions Tuesday, expressing concerns that the law taints Alabama's image around the world. The Birmingham Business Alliance said complying with the law is a burden for businesses and local governments. The group did not offer specific changes.

Strange, the attorney general, recommended repealing a section of the law that makes it a crime for an illegal immigrant to fail to carry registration documents. That section has been put on hold temporarily by a federal court. Strange said federal law already makes it a crime and repealing it would allow police "to focus on more important aspects of the law."

He also suggested repealing the requirement that public schools collect information on the immigration status of students. That section is also on hold.

His letter was written in response to Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, who said the Legislature would only consider changes recommended by the attorney general. Marsh and House Speaker Mike Hubbard did not immediately respond to requests for comments about the letter.

Strange said his recommendations were based only on the legal challenge to the law and on efforts to make the law clearer. "The legislative leadership asked for our opinion and we provided it," he said in an email.

Also Tuesday, state agriculture officials met with farmers to discuss their concerns that the law has driven off the laborers they will need to plant their crops in the spring. Officials discussed the possibility of using prison inmates to fill labor shortages.

One of the attorneys challenging the law, Karen Tumlin of the Immigration Law Center, said officials are beginning to see the "devastating" impact the law is having.

___

Associated Press writers Bob Johnson in Montgomery and Jay Reeves in Birmingham contributed to this report.


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Related Keywords:Alabama Immigration Law,Immigration policy,Immigration,Government and politics,Legislature,Government policy,Social issues,Social affairs,Legislation

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