ThinkProgress has documented how Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, HB 56, makes it illegal undocumented immigrants to access water in their homes or live in their homes. Even tasks as small as getting a library card require proof of citizenship.
Now the Immigration Policy Center has a new report out taking a closer look at the provisions in the state’s harmful law that make it virtually impossible for an undocumented immigrant to live in Alabama — and will likely lead “increase of exploitation of workers, erosion of fundamental legal protections, and denial of access to state and local government services and activities,” according to Joan Friedland, the report’s author.
The law makes it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to “attempt to enter into a business transaction with the state or a political subdivision of the state.” Yet, the term “business transactions” in the Alabama law is so broad that it’s applying to courts as well, which, as Friedland writes, would mean that an undocumented woman would not be able to change her name after divorcing her abusive husband or apply for the probate of her deceased husband’s will.
Additionally, the law prohibits courts from enforcing a contract between lawful and unlawful residents. This would harm both undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens who would have no recourse. As Friedland explains:
- An unauthorized victim of domestic violence who has hired a lawyer to apply for legal status would have no recourse if the lawyer ran off with her money and did not do the work. And the lawyer would have no recourse if she did the work and the unauthorized client did not pay her.
- A landlord might be free to lease an apartment to an unauthorized person, because the judge enjoined Section 13, which would have made merely renting an apartment to an unlawfully present person the crime of harboring. But the tenant might not be able to enforce the terms of the lease, including those pertaining to health and safety, or even stay in the apartment despite payment of rent. And the landlord might not be able to compel payment of the rent.
- An unauthorized person who told a buyer he was leaving the state because of HB 56 and was trying to sell his house would have no recourse if the buyer demanded at the last minute that the seller accept less than the price that had been agreed to in writing. And the buyer would have no recourse if he paid the asking price, and the seller refused to sign the deed, and their real estate agents would not be able to compel payment of their commissions.
No federal judge has struck down the contracts provision, but a state judge found the contract provision to be unconstitutional in at least some contexts, quoting the state constitution’s guarantee that, “[t]here can be no law of this state impairing the obligation of contracts by destroying or impairing the remedy for their enforcement.”