Sadly, the picture for Alabama’s immigrants is even grimmer than this sign suggests. Indeed, under one provision of the state’s immigration law, HB 56, it is a felony for an undocumented immigrant to even attempt to do business with Alabama’s state-run water agencies:
An alien not lawfully present in the United States shall not enter into or attempt to enter into a business transaction with the state or a political subdivision of the state and no person shall enter into a business transaction or attempt to enter into a business transaction on behalf of an alien not lawfully present in the United States. [...]
A violation of this section is a Class C felony.
In Alabama, Class C felonies are punishable by up to ten years in prison — meaning that undocumented people in Alabama can now be locked up for an entire decade if they attempt to take a bath in their own home.
In addition to Allgood, the Birmingham News reported that the Montgomery Water Works Board and Sewer Authority started requiring customers to prove their legal status on Sept. 1 (when the law was slated to go into effect), but stopped after being told that a federal judge had temporarily suspended implementation of the state law. It was unclear if the Montgomery board started asking customers about their legal status again when the law went into effect.
Additionally, Alabama Power told one family that they could not get electricity because of the new immigration law, according to the National Immigration Legal Center. It’s not clear, however, why Alabama Power did so because they are a private company and the law only applies to arms of the state government. To their credit, the electricity company has since told officials at the legal center that they no longer interpret the immigration law to mean that undocumented immigrants cannot receive power.
Yet there are no shortage of routine activities that are now felonies thanks to Alabama’s draconian law. Indeed, because the law defines unlawful “business transactions” very broadly to include “any transaction between a person and the state or a political subdivision of the state,” the mere act of paying income taxes might qualify. Thus, if an undocumented immigrant pays their taxes, they will be guilty of a felony, but if they don’t they will also be guilty of a felony because Alabama punishes tax evaders with up to five years in prison.
In other words, Alabama’s anti-immigrant law effectively makes it a crime to simply live as an undocumented immigrant in the state.