Immigration Hardliners Are Eyeing a New Tactic

It’s been a frenetic year in the battle over state laws on immigration enforcement. The Supreme Court recently announced that it will review Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070, and the Department of Justice has lawsuits pending against Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah, regarding harsh laws of their own. The National Conference of State Legislators reports that state lawmakers introduced more than 1,600 bills and resolutions relating to immigration and immigrants in 2011, up from about 1,400 in 2010.

Even with immigration hardliners hopeful that the Supreme Court will overturn an injunction blocking key provisions of the Arizona law, there are indications that in the coming year they may shift tactics to press for an immigration crackdown. In a USA Today article on Tuesday, reporter Alan Gomez wrote that conservative state legislators have begun turning away from the all-encompassing laws that followed the signing of SB 1070 last April. Instead, according to the bill’s architect, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, they hope to bring a specific part of Alabama’s HB 56 to their own states:

Kobach said Alabama was the first state to invalidate all contracts entered into with illegal immigrants. A strict reading of the law could mean that any contract, including mortgages, apartment leases and basic work agreements, can be ruled null and void.

“That is one that has a much greater effect than some people might expect at first glance,” Kobach said. “Suppose an illegal alien is doing some roofing business and wants to rent some equipment. Some short-term or long-term rental suddenly becomes more difficult to do.”

As Gomez pointed out, a federal judge already decided that Alabama cannot use the provision to keep illegal immigrants from renewing mobile-home permits. Apparently, that won’t stop other state-level pols, like Pennsylvania’s Daryl Metcalfe, the Republican founder of the restrictionist State Legislators for Legal Immigration, from introducing similar measures in 2012:

[Metcalfe] said the recent success of Alabama banning contracts and business transactions by illegal immigrants has placed them on his “wish list” for the upcoming session.

“That’s a very good way to expand the fight to shut down access to revenue that they get,” he said.

Metcalfe’s wish list, it turns out, is quite different from that of the six Alabama religious leaders who called on Gov. Robert Bentley to repeal HB 56 “in the spirit of the Christmas season.” Bentley declined to support the repeal effort, responding that “there is nothing unkind, unjust, or unwarranted about asking everyone in Alabama to obey the law.”