The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 17, 2011

Brooks has strong words on immigration law

By Adam Smith

— Republican Congressman Mo Brooks continued to draw fire this week over comments he made last month at a town hall meeting regarding illegal immigrants.

Brooks, an outspoken advocate of stronger federal immigration law and supporter of the Alabama law slated to go into effect Sept. 1, said he would “do anything short of shooting them.”

The story, first reported by Huntsville television station WHNT on June 29, has since received coverage on a number of national and international news outlets, including CBS News, the Huffington Post and the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom.

Brooks’ comments were just the latest in a string of strong rhetoric from elected officials concerning illegal immigration.

Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong reportedly said the new immigration law might lead to a need for more salsa in the county jail. In February, The Cullman Times reported that Republican State Sen. Scott Beason said Republicans needed to “empty the clip, and do what has to be done” on the immigration issue.

Speaking by phone to The News Courier on Tuesday, Brooks was less controversial but no less direct about his feelings on illegal immigration.

“Illegal aliens are a major problem for America. They take jobs from citizens and they get free health care the rest of Americans are taxed to pay for,” he said. “They drive up education costs by overcrowding classrooms and requiring salaries for English-as-a-second-language instructors. … It’s an issue that must be addressed in a major way.”

He said he was thankful to Alabama leaders who “didn’t stand on the sidelines and look the other way” as families continue to be hurt.

Though it won’t go into effect until Sept. 1, it’s not clear how much of the state’s tough immigration law will pass judicial scrutiny. On July 8, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and several other groups filed a class-action lawsuit against the law, calling it unconstitutional.

“Local Alabama communities and people across the country are shocked and dismayed by the state’s effort to erode our civil rights and fundamental American values,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Just as we’ve stopped similar draconian laws in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia from going into effect, we will do so here in Alabama as well.”

As early as this week, Brooks could present a bill on the floor of the House that would broaden the power of cities, counties and states to address the issue. He said the way the bill is written should withstand judicial scrutiny in the event of any lawsuits from “pro-illegal alien groups that seek to promote lawlessness.”

Brooks said the federal government had been “derelict” in its handling of the immigration issue and praised Alabama, Arizona and Georgia for taking the initiative.

“The White House should have sent Arizona a ‘thank you’ note, but instead the White House gave Arizona a lawsuit and that’s wrong.”