A US Border Patrol agent patrols along the border fence between Arizona and Mexico. (Getty Images)
Last year, Alabama passed what was widely considered the toughest state law in the nation aimed at driving illegal immigrants out of the state. Friday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a new law that revises, and in some cases expands, that law.
Bentley, a Republican, had initially warned the Republican-controlled legislature that the new law - HB 658 - included provisions that worried him. He called legislators into a 10-day special session in part to address those problems.
But by Friday afternoon, Bentley said it was clear that legislators weren't interested in making those revisions.
"In an effort to remove the distraction of immigration from the other business of the special session, I decided to sign House Bill 658 and allow the progress made in the legislation move forward," Bentley said in a statement.
"There is substantial progress in this bill. Burdens on legal residents and businesses are eased, and the goal remains the same - that if you live and work in Alabama, you must do so legally. ...
"The bottom line is there are too many positive aspects of House Bill 658 for it to go unsigned. I don't want to lose the progress we have made," he said. "This bill reduces burdens on legal residents as they conduct government transactions. The bill also reduces burdens on businesses while still holding them accountable to hire legal workers. These changes make this a stronger bill."
Two parts of the law worry Bentley, as well as advocacy groups who have been closely following the law.
One requires the state Department of Homeland Security to publish on the Internet the names of illegal immigrants who appear in any state court. Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center have labeled that requirement a "scarlet letter" and would open illegal immigrants to harassment and vigilantism.
The other section calls for school children in the state's K-12 system to have their immigration status checked when they enroll. Bill sponsors Rep. Micky Hammon and Sen. Scott Beason have said that would allow the state to gauge the cost of educating illegal immigrants in the state but would not be used to deport children.
A similar section was blocked by a federal court last year, as well as other provisions of the law.
Justin Cox, an attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project who has been tracking the legislation in Montgomery, said he was "extremely disappointed" that Bentley signed the bill into law.
"Initially it looked as if he was willing to stand up to the more radical part of the legislature, but he apparently decided it wasn't worth the fight," Cox said. "And, unfortunately, all Alabamians will suffer from his decision."
Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, called it an "incredibly dark day" for Alabama.
"Despite the fact that our state has suffered incredibly over the past year" because of the original immigration law, she said, "the Alabama legislature and Governor Bentley have chosen to double down by passing and signing into law an even more extreme measure."