“Today’s settlement is a great victory for the law-abiding taxpayers of Alabama.”
That was the surreal statement by state House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, when the ill-conceived and comically named Beason-Hammon Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act collapsed under its own weight Tuesday.
How various Alabama taxpayers and citizens view undocumented immigrants is irrelevant to an inescapable conclusion: The law sponsored by Hammon and state Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, was a disastrous failure.
The eventual fate of the 2011 law was clear when it was passed in a rush, without awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending ruling on a nearly identical Arizona law.
The warning of lawyers did not dissuade Hammon or Beason. Nor did it dissuade the many legislators — including all of those in Morgan and Limestone counties — who voted for the law.
The “great victory” touted by Hammon was a settlement agreement between the state and the American Civil Liberties Union. The state’s “victory” required Alabama taxpayers to foot $350,000 in ACLU attorneys’ fees. State Attorney General Luther Strange has refused to compile the taxpayer-funded cost of defending the law. The settlement also made permanent the federal-court injunctions blocking almost every significant provision of the law.
Far from a victory, the settlement was a surrender. Hammon’s effort at self-justification notwithstanding, it was the state’s acknowledgement that the law was an expensive and foolish misadventure.
Despite the law’s name, it provided no protection to taxpayers. It was a political stunt that drained money from a state government that is limping along on money borrowed from reserve accounts.
Hammon and Beason presented the statute as being all about respect for law. What the courts and Tuesday’s settlement made clear, however, is that their effort was itself an affront to law.
Whether blinded by prejudice or political ambition, they and their colleagues chose to violate the nation’s most cherished laws, those set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
By codifying hate, they tore the state apart. Religious groups, even those who generally support conservatives, could not stomach a law whose express purpose — as succinctly stated by Hammon — was to attack “every aspect of an illegal alien’s life.”
It tore Hispanic parents from their children and pitted Alabamians against each other.
The law dredged up memories — both within the state and around the world — of Alabama’s past treatment of those who do not look like the state’s white majority.
Hammon and Beason defend the law by claiming it was what many of their constituents wanted. All of their constituents, however, expected them to balance political pandering with wisdom.