Fox Defends Controversial AL Immigration Law While Largely Ignoring Critics' Concerns

Fox & Friends recently defended Alabama's controversial new immigration law, which, among other things, makes it illegal to knowingly give an undocumented immigrant a ride and requires schools to check students' immigration status. However, while Fox & Friends acknowledged that some provisions of the law may be unconstitutional, the show largely failed to address any specific criticisms of the law, including that the law could lead to racial profiling.

Alabama Passes Controversial Immigration Law

AP: “Ala Illegal Immigration Law Considered Toughest In US; Schools Must Check Status Of Students.” On June 9, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed an immigration law that an Associated Press (AP) article said is “being called the nation's most restrictive against illegal immigration.” From the article:

Alabama schools will soon have to check if students are in the country legally and people stopped for any reason could be arrested on suspicion of immigration violations under a sweeping law being called the nation's most restrictive against illegal immigration.


In addition, it requires all businesses to check the legal status of workers using a federal system called E-Verify and makes it a crime to knowingly give an illegal immigrant a ride.


Among other things, the law makes it a crime for landlords to knowingly rent to an illegal immigrant.

Another provision makes it a crime to transport a known illegal immigrant. Arizona's law appears narrower: It includes language against human smuggling and makes it illegal to pick up laborers for work if doing so impedes traffic.

Alabama's law also goes further in requiring schools to check the immigration status of their students. The measure does not prohibit illegal immigrants from attending public schools; lawmakers said the purpose instead is to gather data on how many are enrolled and how the much the state is spending to educate them. [AP, via The Washington Post, 6/10/11]

Fox & Friends Applauds AL Law As A Necessary “Frustration Plea” With “The Federal Government”

Johnson Applauds AL Law As A “Frustration Plea” With “The Federal Government”; Kilmeade Agrees That AL Is “Fed Up With Its Illegal Immigration Problem.” During the June 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade and Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. discussed Alabama's new immigration law. While Johnson acknowledged that "[t]here are some legal issues that need to be explored" with regard to the law, he also said the law was a “frustration plea” with “the federal government” and later concluded, “There's a need for action, and Alabama is stepping in to see what they can do.” During the segment, on-screen text acknowledged that “opponents say [the] new law is motivated by bigotry” and that civil rights groups were “outraged.” From the show:

KILMEADE: Peter, this is a state that is fed up with its illegal immigration problem and is desperate to change it. They don't hate people or -- but the illegals are destroying their economy.

JOHNSON: What this is, is a cry. This is a frustration plea that the federal government has done nothing. But what Alabama has done is tried to regulate in every way, every contact, every illegal immigrant will have with commerce, with education, with the voting system. They're moving that -- the governor signed a law that you need to show ID at the time of voting. It's --

KILMEADE: So look at the groups that are against it. I mean the ACLU is against it, [Southern] Poverty [Law] Center --

JOHNSON: Well, the usual groups are against it. The ACLU and SPLC --

KILMEADE: But do they have a legal case?

JOHNSON: There are some legal issues that need to be explored. But I think this is part of a national conversation that we need to have about the inadequacy of federal laws. And so what you see are states across the country responding in ways to remedy a situation that they find to be untenable, immoral, illegal and very expensive. So there are certain provisions that may not meet muster in this particular law. It's a 72-page law. And so it goes beyond Arizona, it goes beyond any other state in the country. I'd like to hear what people are thinking on this.

KILMEADE: So we should Twitter you directly?

JOHNSON: You can get me on Twitter; you can get us at Fox News. Let's talk about this. Let's have a national discussion and debate. Let's see whether it's legal or it's constitutional. I think a lot of the provisions are. Some may be questionable, but clearly there's a need for action, and Alabama is stepping in to see what they can do. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/10/11]

But Fox Failed To Note Specific Criticisms Of The Law, Even While Acknowledging It May Face “Legal Issues”

AP: SPLC, ACLU, Alabama Appleseed, National Immigration Law Center Oppose Law, Warn Of Legal Challenges. From the AP article:

Advocacy groups promised to challenge the sweeping measure signed by Gov. Robert Bentley on Thursday, which they call even more severe than the one in Arizona that is being challenged in court.


“It is clearly unconstitutional. It's mean-spirited, racist, and we think a court will enjoin it,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.


The Alabama measure instantly puts the state at the forefront of the immigration debate. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center agreed that it is the nation's toughest crackdown on illegal immigration.

Linton Joaquin, general counsel for the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles, said the Alabama law covers all aspects of an immigrant's life.

“It is a sweeping attack on immigrants and people of color in general. It adds restrictions on education, housing and other areas. It is a very broad attack,” Joaquin said.


Alabama's law also goes further in requiring schools to check the immigration status of their students. The measure does not prohibit illegal immigrants from attending public schools; lawmakers said the purpose instead is to gather data on how many are enrolled and how the much the state is spending to educate them.

Jared Shepherd, an attorney for the ACLU, warned that because of that provision, some immigrant parents may not send their children to school for fear of arrest or deportation.

Activists such as Shay Farley, legal director of Alabama Appleseed, an immigrant advocacy group, said the bill invites racial profiling not only by law enforcement officers but by landlords and employers.

“It's going to make us profile our neighbors and our church brothers and sisters,” Farley said. [AP, via The Washington Post, 6/10/11]

ACLU Says Law “Invit[es] Racial Profiling Of Latinos,” Plans To File Suit Against The Law. The ACLU announced in a June 9 press release that it will file a lawsuit challenging Alabama's law:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama said today that they will file, in coalition with other civil rights groups, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Alabama's draconian anti-immigrant law before it goes into effect Sept. 1. HB 56, even more restrictive than Arizona's SB1070 which it was inspired by, was signed into law this morning by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

The law's key provisions sanction discriminatory and unconstitutional practices by police officers, landlords and employers by inviting racial profiling of Latinos and others based on how they look or talk, violating the First Amendment and interfering with federal law.

The press release also quoted Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, as saying: “This law is an outrageous throw-back to the pre-Civil Rights era, going beyond the discriminatory and unconstitutional police practices that we've seen in other states. ... By signing this bill into law, Gov. Bentley has codified official discrimination in the State of Alabama.” [ACLU, 6/9/11]

SPLC: “Alabama Bill Sacrifices Citizens' Safety, Perpetuates Bigotry.” A June 3 press release from the Southern Poverty Law Center said the Alabama law would face legal challenges, as a similar law in Georgia is currently facing. The press release, released after the Alabama legislature passed the law but before Governor Bentley signed it, concluded that "[i]f the governor does not veto [the bill], the SPLC will challenge the law in court." From the press release:

Yesterday, the Alabama Legislature fell into the same costly trap as neighboring Georgia by following the ill-fated footsteps of Arizona and passing harsh anti-immigrant legislation. The bill, H.B. 56, will not only set back years of progress on civil rights in the state but will also add considerably to Alabama's existing budget crisis.

If Gov. Bentley signs H.B. 56 into law, Alabama, already struggling financially, will waste hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of taxpayer dollars to defend this racist law in court.

We joined a number of other civil rights organizations in a lawsuit challenging the Georgia law because it is unconstitutional. The courts have already blocked the notorious Arizona law, which served as a model to Georgia and Alabama, and the courts also blocked a copycat law in Utah last month. These laws have been consistently declared illegal and unconstitutional by the courts.

This cost will threaten the safety and security of all Alabamians by diverting already limited resources away from law enforcement's primary responsibility - protecting and promoting public safety. It will also result in an increase in crime if undocumented immigrants who are crime victims are afraid to contact local police.


The Southern Poverty Law Center will continue to fight against laws that create a climate of fear for immigrants. If the governor does not veto H. B. 56, the SPLC will challenge the law in court. Illegal and harmful bills like this will not go unchallenged. [Huffington Post, 6/2/11; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/3/10]

NILC: Alabama “Rolls Back Civil Rights For Countless Children And Families.” From a June 9 press release from the National Immigration Law Center (NILC):

Alabama Governor Bentley today signed into law what may be the harshest state-level, anti-immigrant measure to date. Inspired by Arizona's notorious racial profiling law, SB 1070, the new Alabama law imposes a draconian immigration enforcement scheme that will subject immigrants and people of color to scrutiny in every aspect of their lives, including when renting homes, taking their children to school, and even entering into contracts. The law would hinder schools from fulfilling the vital task of educating our youth and require them instead to verify the immigration status of children in attendance, as well as their parents, and report the information to state authorities. The law also criminalizes basic, daily interactions between U.S. citizens and other lawfully present individuals and undocumented immigrants. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“Today, Alabama effectively turned state workers, peace officers, and school teachers into de facto immigration agents. Immigrants and people of color will be subjected to additional, unconstitutional scrutiny when they take their children to school or interact with local law enforcement officers. Friends and family members of undocumented immigrants will face criminal charges simply for driving them to church or to the grocery store.

”By passing HB 86, Alabama's legislators have deemed an entire class of people not worthy of the most fundamental rights, which were carefully prescribed to all people by our Founding Fathers. This law effectively makes immigrants the latest group of people to suffer a legalization of discriminatory behavior against them, and threatens to turn back the clock on our hard-won civil rights."

The press release also quoted Hincapié as saying that NILC will “join our colleagues from other civil rights organizations,” including the ACLU and SPLC, in challenging the legality of Alabama's law. [NILC, 6/9/11]