Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley yesterday (June 9th) signed what's being viewed as the strongest legislation in the country targeting illegal immigrants, surpassing the tough measures passed by Arizona that is the subject of a court fight.     Under Alabama's new law, which takes effect on September 1st, it will be a crime to knowingly give an illegal immigrant a ride or rent them an apartment, and, as in Arizona, police will be able to request proof that someone is in the country legally if they suspect they might not be and have stopped them for another reason. All business, no matter their size, will have to check the legal status of their workers using the federal E-Verify system. Additionally, public schools will be required to find out if students are in the country legally, although they won't be barred from attending. Lawmakers said the purpose is to gather data on how many students are enrolled who aren't in the country legally and how the much the state is spending to educate them.

    Advocacy groups promised to challenge the sweeping measure, with Mary Bauer of the Southern Poverty Law Center calling it, quote, "clearly unconstitutional . . . mean-spirited [and] racist." But Bentley was confident that the law would withstand any legal challenge, and one of the measure's sponsors, Republican state Senator Scott Beason, said it would help the unemployed in Alabama by preventing illegal immigrants from taking jobs.