Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Legislators Study Ways to Lure New Industries

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Legislators Study Ways to Lure New Industries

Article excerpt

MONTGOMERY | The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Thursday previewed proposed legislation that would help industry recruiters.

Some recruiters said Alabama's illegal immigration law is making their job harder.

The committee discussed a package of bills to be presented in the 2012 legislative session, which begins Feb. 7. Not included, however, were any bills that would revise the illegal immigration law, considered one of the toughest in the nation.

The Legislature passed the law last year. It gained national attention, including criticism that it is unconstitutional, racist and unduly harsh. Some legislators who voted for the bill have since said they would consider changes but would not rescind it altogether.

The controversy it created, however, has been enough to discourage some prospective businesses and industries from considering Alabama, and other states are using the law to their advantage, economic development experts told the committee.

"Companies concerned about that issue cross us off their list," said Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority.

Birmingham attorney Alex Leath III, who writes much of Alabama's economic development legislation, said a colleague sent him an email that showed South Carolina is using Alabama's illegal immigration law as a tool to woo foreign prospects.

"Other states are using the immigration law against us to recruit," Leath said. "From an economic development perspective, I understand it's a difficult problem, but we hope for changes."

Sponsors of the law said it was designed to discourage illegal immigrants and was in response to a real or perceived lack of enforcement of federal immigration laws. It has drawn nationwide criticism from Latino, civil liberties and religious groups, however, and has been challenged in court by some of those groups, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, as being unconstitutional.

Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed the bill into law in June, has since said revisions are needed so it can withstand constitutional challenges.

But one of the sponsors of the bill, state Sen. …

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