Civil Rights Panel Sets Immigration Meeting in State

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MONTGOMERY | The U.S. Civil Rights Commission plans a meeting in Alabama this summer to survey the impact of immigration laws and their effect on civil rights.

The commission said it will meet Aug. 17, probably in Birmingham. The panel will include state officials, local law enforcement officials, the U.S. Department of Justice, people who believe their civil rights have been affected by immigration laws, scholars, advocacy groups and members of the commission's state advisory groups, the commission said in a statement.

The commission said it will look at whether recently enacted state immigration enforcement laws -- such as Alabama's -- discriminate, cause hate crimes, increase racial and ethnic profiling, diminish immigrant student rights and compromise public safety and community policing.

"I'm pleased that my fellow commissioners, in a unanimous and bipartisan fashion, voted to conduct this important inquiry on issues not addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its present decision," commission chairman Martin R. Castro said.

The date of the hearing probably means it will be conducted after the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals rules in the lawsuit over Alabama's immigration law, which was patterned after Arizona's.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week threw out three parts of Arizona's law, but kept a provision much like Alabama's that allows law enforcement agencies to question the immigration status of people who are stopped for other legitimate law enforcement reasons. The court said immigration policy is the purview of the federal government.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said he expected the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to quickly rule on Alabama's law, now that it has the Supreme Court decision in Arizona's as a template.

State Sens. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and Bobby Singleton, D- Greensboro, said they have been asked to attend the commission meeting.

Beason was the co-author of Alabama's 2011 immigration law, which was re-tooled in 2012. Singleton is an outspoken opponent of the bill.

"My understanding is they want to hear both sides and the issues and realities of the law," Beason said.

Singleton said he plans to participate if his schedule isn't in conflict.

"If you look at the immigration law, it is racist and biased," Singleton said. "White immigrants of European descent can come into this country and be OK. We're looking at Mexican Latinos. They aren't looking at other ethic groups."

Gov. Robert Bentley signed the immigration bill into law.

"We would hope that this meeting would, indeed, fairly examine the issue of illegal immigration," said Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for the governor. "However, I cannot speak to the purpose of this meeting as this is not a meeting we have organized. …