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Alabama legislator working to revise controversial immigration law

From Gustavo Valdes, CNN
updated 11:39 AM EST, Thu November 17, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An Alabama state senator says he hopes to introduce proposed "tweaks" to the law next month
  • The changes would eliminate some requirements in the anti-illegal immigration law
  • "We are not trying to weaken the law,' says state Sen. Gerald Dial
  • An opponent says revisions indicate some legislators acknowledge "a mistake"

(CNN) -- A prominent Alabama state senator is leading an effort to revise the state's controversial anti-illegal immigration law, saying "unintended consequences" make some changes necessary.

Senate majority whip Gerald Dial, a Republican, said the changes under consideration are the result of comments made to him and his colleagues from constituents.

Dial said three or four other state senators are working with him to introduce proposed "tweaks" to the law in December, ahead of next year's legislative session.

Among revisions the legislators are looking at eliminating are a requirement for public schools to ask legal status of new students, and verification of status to apply for and renew professional and business licenses, and to renew car tags.

"We are not trying to weaken the law," Dial said, arguing that he and his colleagues primarily are trying to streamline processes for business.

The law was signed by Gov. Robert Bentley in June and was quickly challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of civic groups.

The bulk of the law was allowed to go into effect by a federal judge who blocked some parts. Later an appeal court stopped implementation of other previsions including the requirement of schools to ask legal status of new students.

Dial said he will include a new "good Samaritan" provision in revisions, to protect those helping people regardless of legal status. The original bill included a provision that would punish those aiding undocumented immigrants.

Rebekah Mason, communications director for Bentley said, "The governor has not made any specific recommendations. He is hearing the concerns of those who would like to see changes made to the law but he has made no recommendations."

An opponent of the law said the proposed changes indicated some legislators were acknowledging "a mistake."

Andre Segura, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project -- one of the groups leading the legal challenge against the law -- said: "Some of the original supporters of Alabama's anti-immigrant law now appear to recognize that they made a mistake when they passed this misguided law, which has led to racial profiling, deterred children from going to school and harmed businesses throughout the state."

"This law is unconstitutional and must be blocked, and we will continue to challenge it in court," Segura added.

Dial said expects the support of his colleagues to revising the law.

"I hope level heads will prevail," he said.

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