Then the King will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” - Matthew 25:41-45
The Decatur Daily reported yesterday that Decatur Utilities will no longer provide electric, gas, water or sewer service to undocumented immigrants. Huntsville Utilities has instituted the same policy. Because these utilities, and many others in Alabama, are “political subdivisions” of the state, HB56 requires them to determine immigration status of customers and refuse service to those who are undocumented. It also apparently makes felons of legal residents who pay for utility service for mixed-status households.
Section 30 of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act requires the state and its political subdivisions to confirm that individuals conducting “business transactions” — which the law defines to mean “any transaction” — are legally present in the United States.
The law makes it a felony for a legal resident to enter into a transaction with the state or its subdivisions on behalf of an undocumented immigrant.
The utility companies’ new requirements are only for “individuals and partnerships beginning new service, adding an account to existing service or attempting to restore service after it has been shut off for nonpayment”. And therein lies the rub. Low-income customers are much more likely to be shut off for nonpayment, and immigrants (documented or not) who have been frightened away from their jobs or who depend on seasonal employment are at particularly high risk. Assuming they can get assistance with their utility bills, they now have to go through the “papers please” routine or go without the basic necessities of life and health.
This result was exactly what the Justice Department feared when it asked Judge Sharon Blackburn to strike down Section 30 of the law. Luther Strange, who apparently lives in a bubble somewhere, pooh-poohed those concerns:
State Attorney General Luther Strange argued in a legal brief he filed in August that the Justice Department’s claim was “misinterpreting, or at least exaggerating” the requirements of the law.
“Its fear that Section 30 would prohibit such aliens from having running water or sewer services, for example, has little basis,” Strange wrote.
Apparently it has a mighty big basis, Luther. Meanwhile, bill sponsor Rep. Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) is absolutely thrilled that fellow human beings won’t have access to heat or light or clean water or flush toilets. He also includes a threat to anyone who might want to give a drink to the thirsty.
“Our goal was to prevent any business transactions with any governments. It’s just an extension of the goal of the entire bill — to prevent illegal immigrants from coming to Alabama and to discourage those that are here from putting down roots,” Hammon said.
He said he is pleased with the results.
“It seems to be working,” Hammon said. “We’re seeing a lot of illegal immigrants self-deport.”
Hammon said legal residents also need to pay attention to the law.
“We have a conspiracy clause in there,” Hammon said. “Anybody who assists illegal immigrants through any of these processes will also be guilty of a felony.”
Mr. Hammon, you’re talking about lots of people who put down roots here long ago. They put down roots in large part because many of those businesses that are part of the same associations you list in your biography drew them here with the promise of work. Their children were born and raised here, they are valued employees and members of their communities, and THEY DON’T DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE THIS.
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
I don’t see any ambiguity there. You know what else I don’t see? Any mention of immigration status.