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Alabama to revise immigration law after embarrassing gaffes

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Reuters) – Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said on Friday he would work to revise the state’s tough new immigration law following embarrassing incidents where foreign workers were detained because they were not carrying sufficient identification.

Bentley, House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, said in a statement they do not plan to repeal or weaken the law, widely considered to be the toughest of its kind in the nation.

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“We recognize that changes are needed to ensure that Alabama has not only the nation’s most effective law, but one that is fair and just, promotes economic growth, preserves jobs for those in Alabama legally, and can be enforced effectively and without prejudice,” Bentley said in the statement.

The move came after two foreign workers in Alabama’s key auto industry were detained by police in recent weeks for failing to produce proof of legal residency, generating negative publicity for the state and prompting calls for a reexamination of the law.

The Alabama law, which passed by large margins in both chambers of the Republican-led legislature earlier this year, requires police to detain people they suspect of being in the United States illegally if they cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.

A U.S. appeals court last month blocked Alabama from enforcing part of the new law, including a controversial provision that permits the state to require public schools to determine the legal residency of children upon enrollment. But it let other parts of the law stand including the detention requirement.

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Businesses in the state, especially farmers, have protested against the law, which they say has caused widespread desertions of Hispanic workers from the state, creating an employee shortage.

In response, some Alabama officials have suggested putting inmates in the state’s prisons to work in the fields to do the jobs once performed by immigrants.

The three Republicans who issued Friday’s statement said they would work to tweak the law, which has generated unwanted headlines in recent weeks and hurt the state’s reputation with business.

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The Justice Department has sued the state, saying the law represents an impermissible effort by state lawmakers to set immigration policy. The department civil rights division, meanwhile, has said the measure may also violate a number of federal civil rights laws.

(Reporting by Verna Gates; Writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune)

Source: Reuters US Online Report Top News

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Photo by Eli Hodapp from Flickr

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