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Alabama immigration law puts high school musical on hold

Alabama's crackdown on illegal immigration may keep Charlie Brown and Snoopy from performing in a high school musical.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Alabama's crackdown on illegal immigration may keep Charlie Brown and Snoopy from performing in a high school musical.

A public high school has put the production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" on hold after a New York licensing house that owns the rights to the play refused to submit a document required under the immigration law.

The licensing company, Tams-Witmark Music Library Inc., relented and submitted the document Friday following inquiries from The Associated Press, school officials said.

Pelham High School still must purchase the rights to the play, which can cost more than $1,200, before the show will go on.

Acting groups — even student theater troupes — must pay for the right to use scripts or risk lawsuits.

Rehearsals had been going on for weeks before the company's initial move forced teachers to pull the plug, frustrating student actors.

"They, and their teachers, have already put in many hours of preparation and hard work to have it taken away from them because of politics," said Donna Vildibill, whose son Andy was cast as piano-playing Schroeder in the musical. "As usual, it's the children that get the raw end of any deal in Alabama."

The Manhattan-based company declined comment. "We don't discuss our business," said chairman Robert Hut.

According to its website, the company owns the rights to some of the most popular stage shows, including "A Chorus Line," "Camelot," "Oliver" and "My Fair Lady."

The immigration law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley, requires companies doing business with the state or local governments in Alabama to submit sworn documents certifying they don't knowingly employ illegal immigrants. Companies also must promise they are enrolled in the federal E-Verify program, a database for screening workers for citizenship.

Federal courts ruling on lawsuits filed by the Obama administration and others have blocked key sections of the law since it was supposed to take effect last fall, but not the provision that requires the vendor certifications.

A spokeswoman for Bentley, Jennifer Ardis, said about five companies have refused to submit documentation mandated by the law, but the state still has 4,733 registered vendors and has awarded 96 contracts since the law took effect.

Designed to make it difficult for illegal immigrants to live or work in Alabama, the law has created confusion since it took effect. Some local governments are requiring that all vendors submit documents certifying they don't have workers who are illegal immigrants. But Cindy Warner, a spokeswoman for schools in Shelby County, said all that was required from the New York company was a form stating it doesn't have employees in Alabama. County schools have sent thousands of letters to other vendors asking them to comply with the law, she said.

"We have mailed forms to every vendor we do business with trying to determine if they have operations in Alabama," she said. "We've probably sent 8,000."

Warner said Pelham High teachers are planning an alternative show in case they can't pull off a deal for "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."