The Alabama Senate passed a bill intended to crack down on illegal immigration on Thursday, but the version is different from one passed earlier by the House of Representatives.
The Senate passed the bill 26-6 after contentious debate that included some critical words between Republicans.
Even among Republicans there are strong disagreements about how to handle the issue of illegal immigration.
Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican in his first year in office, said he met with the sponsors in his office and asked them to work out the differences in their proposals. He said he met with Sen. Scott Beason and Rep. Micky Hammon a week ago.
Bentley said they need to come up with a bill that is good and legally defendable.
Beason's bill would not allow people who are here illegally to receive public benefits. It allows people to file a civil complaint in court against a public official who is not enforcing immigration laws; requires detaining someone under certain conditions if his status cannot be verified; "requires notification of the United States Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement when an unlawfully present alien is convicted of state law;" and allows the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to hire law enforcement officers to deal with illegal immigration and gives that agency enforcement power.
Beason, R-Gardendale, said the hiring of those officers would be reimbursed by the federal government.
Unlike the House version, businesses would not be required to use the federal E-Verify system to check on the legal status of potential employees. Businesses that do work for the state would have to use the E-Verify system.
"We're still saying you can't hire these people. If you get caught, you better have done something," Beason said. But he said he did not want the legislation to be a burden to a man who has a small business that hires his friend who lives down the street.
Beason's bill would also criminalize "concealing, harboring, or shielding" people here illegally; criminalize dealing with false identification documents; prohibits any person here illegally from obtaining a drivers license or non-driver identification; requires the Alabama Department of Public Safety to begin issuing non-driver identification cards that indicate a person's legal presence; requires verification of the legal status of people charged with a crime for which bail is required; and requires a person to show proof of citizenship or residency before voting.
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