The Alabama legislature voted in April 2011 to charge illegal immigrants residing in the state with a felony if they should enter into a broadly defined “business transaction.” A business transaction in this case can be anything from signing an apartment lease to paying an electricity bill. The original bill, H.B. 56, was signed into law in June. The law is currently under fire by some in the federal government, including Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, as creating conditions that are “beneath the dignity of this great nation.”
Often cited as the most strict and draconian law of its kind in the country, an effect of the recent legislation seems to be a rise in job abandonment in the state, especially within the agricultural fields, leading to increasing crop failures. More small business are also closing, primary school attendance is down, and residents of the state are more frequently choosing to flee the state in the hope of finding better living conditions elsewhere.
Many Alabama legislatures who approved the law have begun to publically second guess their behavior as the full extent of the law’s economic repercussions is becoming more evident. The federal government has taken Alabama to federal court, claiming the law is unconstitutional, rendering some provisions of the law unenforceable while the case is ongoing. However, the majority of the law remains in effect, for the duration.
Most of the outcry is focused around the instances where the law has invalidated employment contracts for aliens who are otherwise guaranteed the federal minimum wage as put forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Some employers have taken to using the law to deny earned wages to aliens, despite the fact that they are legally owed. According to a Supreme Court ruling in 1955, workers, regardless of their resident status, cannot forfeit their basic right to receive the federal minimum wage, even from within a contractual agreement.