Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act

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Governor Bentley signs the act into law while Scott Beason, Kerry Rich and Micky Hammon look on

The Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act is a 2011 Alabama law that, as written, was generally considered the strongest state legislation aimed at controlling illegal immigration into the United States. Many of its provisions were stayed by court order and eventually nullified by court settlement.

The bill, dubbed "House Bill 56" or "HB56" was sponsored in the Alabama House of Representatives by twenty-five individual legislators. It was first read on March 1, 2011 and referred to the committees on Public Safety and Homeland Security. The house passed the bill on its third reading on April 5 by a 67-29 vote. It was read in the Alabama Senate on April 19.

With the encouragement of Senate sponsor Scott Beason, who had earlier implored legislators to "empty the clip" to combat illegal immigration, the bill passed by a vote of 25-7 on May 5 and. After some motions were debated, it was enrolled on June 2 and send to Governor Robert Bentley the same day. He signed the bill on June 9, enacting it as the law of Alabama. Many provisions of the law were set to become effective as of January 1, 2012, with the requirements for use of the Federal E-Verify system set to go into effect on April 1.


The primary aim of the bill, as described in its introduction, was to "preclude any state or local government or official from refusing to enforce federal immigration laws" and to "prohibit an alien unlawfully present in the United States from receiving any state or local public benefits". One sponsor, Representative Micky Hammon of Decatur, bragged that the bill "attacks every aspect of an illegal alien's life." It accomplished that goal by creating a number of newly-defined crimes.

Anyone not a citizen of the United States and without a valid visa or permanent resident status who was convicted of "willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document" under the new law could be fined $100 and jailed for 30 days. Anyone who was found to "knowingly apply for work, solicit work in a public or private place or perform work as an employee or independent contractor" without verifiable status could be fined $500.

State and local officials, as well as private individuals and businesses, could be in violation of these laws if they failed to determine another party's federal immigration status before rendering public services or assistance, or engaging in business under the state's imprimatur.

In the area of law enforcement, the law required state and local police officers to make a "reasonable attempt" to verify the immigration status of any suspect "where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States". Officers were further required to verify the immigration status of all those charged with crimes for which bail is required and granted broad powers to detain individuals whose status could not be readily verified. It provided for the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to maintain its own state police and to maintain an online verification system for legal immigrants.

With regard to public benefits, the law required public school districts to verify the immigration status of all enrolled students and to publish reports of the number of undocumented enrollees and the cost of educating those without documentation. Public colleges and universities were required to deny enrollment to undocumented aliens. The law also required poll workers, under a newly-created state election board, to determine valid citizenship of prospective voters.

With regard to private employment and contracts, the law prohibited private businesses from knowingly employing undocumented immigrant workers, and required businesses who received public incentives to verify their employees' immigration status. It prohibited "aliens not lawfully present" in the United States from entering into business transactions, housing leases, and other forms of contract (which would be rendered void under the provisions of the law). Private citizens could also be charged under the law of "concealing, harboring, shielding, or attempting to conceal, harbor, or shield unauthorized aliens". Businesses in violation of the law could have had their licenses suspended or revoked.


a June 25, 2011 rally at Linn Park opposing the law

The goal of passing stricter state laws regarding immigration had been expressed by many Republican candidates for state office, including Governor Bentley and Senate president pro tem Del Marsh. Frequent reference was made to a controversial law passed in Arizona in 2010 and, by consensus, the Alabama legislature succeeded in passing a stricter law than Arizona's. Birmingham News columnist John Archibald dubbed it the "Beason Brown People Ban".

Many religious leaders in the state, including Methodist Bishop Episcopal Bishop Henry Parsley and Catholic Bishop Robert Baker, criticized the law for its "meanness" and its negative effect on Christian ministry. An interfaith protest in downton Birmingham on June 25 attracted more than 3,000 demonstrators.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center both indicated that they would file suits in federal courts to prevent enforcement of the law on the grounds that it violates the Constitution of the United States.

On June 28 the Birmingham City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the law and calling for a commission to review the issues.

Beason and other supporters of the law credited it with helping reduce statewide unemployment in late 2011. Prominent economists at the University of Alabama's Center for Business and Economic Research disagreed. Ahmad Ijaz, director of economic forecasting, found that most job growth in that period was in the automotive and retail industries, in which immigrant workers are scarce, and that construction, agriculture and poultry processing, which employ a high percentage of immigrant labor, did not experience job growth. A study compiled by Samuel Addy concluded that the bill stifles economic growth while increasing public expenditures for enforcement.


Judicial review

Judge Sharon Blackburn of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama temporarily suspended enforcement of the law until September 28, when most provisions were put into effect. On appeal, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta blocked provisions requiring schools to collect information on students' immigration status on October 14, 2011. On March 8, 2012 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta blocked additional sections of the law that had barred courts from enforcing contracts between residents and illegal immigrants and prohibited state and local governments from doing business with illegal immigrants.

Judge Myron Thompson of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama blocked another portion of the law preventing undocumented immigrants from filing mobile home registrations. In his November 23, 2011 ruling he criticized lawmakers for indulging in ethnic stereotyping and misinformation campaigns during legislative debate.

Lawsuits filed by the United States Department of Justice and with a coalition of Civil Rights groups were ended on October 29, 2013 when a settlement was reached with the state by which the parties agreed that many provisions of the law violated provisions in U.S. Constitution and would be permanently blocked. The blocked provisions included the requirement for immigrants to carry registration papers; the restriction against undocumented immigrants seeking employment; a section making it a crime to stop on the road to hire laborers if it impeded traffic; the provision making private citizens guilty of a crime by concealing, harboring, inducing, transporting or conducting business with undocumented immigrants; a section exempting wages or compensation paid to illegal immigrants from allowed income of business tax deductions; a section defining the employment of an illegal immigrant as discrimination if a citizen or authorized immigrant is not hired; a section nullifying contracts in which one party is an undocumented immigrant; and the section requiring public schools to investigate the immigration status of pupils. Additional provisions of the law became subject to "narrow interpretation" under the settlement agreement, eliminating the authorization for law enforcement officials to detain individuals in order to check immigration status.

Critics of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act celebrated the "gutting" of the law, which it characterized as a failure. The law's supporters argued that it had worked as intended and Rep. Hammon asserted that "the meat of the bill was still intact," referring to the requirements for employers to use the E-Verify system in making hires, for colleges and universities to verify immigrant status, and for undocumented immigrants to be denied driver's licenses, auto tags and business licenses.


  • Bayerle, Dana (February 7, 2011) "Beason: 'Empty the clip' comment taken out of context." Gadsden Times
  • White, David (June 2, 2011) "Alabama Legislature passes Arizona-style immigration bill." The Birmingham News
  • Preston, Julia (June 3, 2011) "In Alabama, a Harsh Bill for Residents Here Illegally." The New York Times
  • Archibald, John (June 10, 2011) "In Montgomery, it's the end of the beginning." The Birmingham News
  • Velasco, Eric (June 10, 2011) "Critics say new Alabama immigration law will be costly." The Birmingham News
  • Dean, Charles J. (June 12, 2011) "Jefferson County's Sen. Scott Beason politically 'hot' and every where you look." The Birmingham News
  • Lyman, Brian (June 17, 2011) "Church leaders criticize Alabama's immigration law." Montgomery Advertiser
  • Velasco, Eric (June 25, 2011) "Marchers silently protest new Alabama immigration law in downtown Birmingham." The Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (June 28, 2011) "Birmingham City Council condemns Alabama's new immigration law." The Birmingham News
  • Gray, Jeremy (January 14, 2012) "Birmingham's Scott Douglas appears on 'Colbert Report'." The Birmingham News
  • Addy, Samuel (January 2012) "A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the New Alabama Immigration Law" Center for Business and Economic Research. Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration. University of Alabama
  • Cason, Mike (November 3, 2013) "HB56 two years later: Settlement takes bite out of Alabama's immigration law." The Birmingham News

External links