May 11, 2012 8:34AM

Alabama Business Death Penalty

Alabama’s state level immigration law is probably the worst in the United States. Next Wednesday the Alabama Senate is going debate some minor changes that would soften some parts.

But there is some disagreement over how to reform it. Senator Scott Beason (R‐​Gardendale) and Representative Micky Hammon (R‐​Decatur), the co‐​sponsors of the original bill, differ on how much to punish businesses for hiring the workers they want. Hammon wants to loosen the penalties for businesses who violate the law as well as some other sections. Beason is upset that Hammon wants to loosen the punishments for businesses that violate the immigration law. He said,

I do not want to put both employer sections at risk. You change one, you change both, and both end up embroiled in court for a few years.

Too bad he doesn’t have the same aversion to embroiling small businesses in court because they violated some arcane sections of American immigration law.

The Alabama immigration law currently punishes second time business offenders with a total revocation of their business licenses, a punishment called the “business death penalty.” Hammon wants to eliminate the automatic death penalty and allow judges more discretion in setting punishments. The business death penalty in Arizona, the basis for Alabama’s law, is rarely enforced but it’s a source of regulatory uncertainty and escalating compliance costs there. Harsh punishments for small infractions are intended to stir up fear and deter illegality where mass enforcement is impractical, which is certainly the case here.

State level immigration laws target unauthorized immigrants but businesses and entrepreneurs are hurt in the process. The entire economy then has to deal with another set of complex and uncertain business regulations. Small tweaks to Alabama’s immigration law will not be enough. When anti‐​immigration laws apply death penalties to American businesses for the sake of enforcing antiquated laws, it’s time to rethink the entire premise of our immigration restrictions.