Federal court hears arguments on Alabama immigration law

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], joined by several rights groups, appeared before a federal judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama [official website] on Wednesday seeking a temporary injunction of the state's new immigration law [HB 56 text]. The law requires school officials to verify the immigration status of children and parents, authorizes police to detain an individual and ask for papers if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" that the driver is in the country illegally and requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify system [official website] to determine whether potential employees are legal residents. The motion for injunction [text, PDF; JURIST report] was filed last month and alleges that HB 56 violates the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendments and the Supremacy and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution [text]. Rights groups argued [statement] that the law will cause irreparable harm if not enjoined.

Today's hearing highlighted why Alabama's law must be stopped in its tracks. The law makes it impossible for immigrant families to go to school, to make a living, to take care of routine business, and even to drive on a public road without fear of being punished under state law. This discriminatory law aims at undocumented immigrants, but catches lawful immigrants and U.S. citizens in the crossfire.
The DOJ was joined by religious groups and representatives of several rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy websites]. The groups contend that HB 56 is "the most extreme" of the five most recent state laws influenced by Arizona SB 1070 [JURIST news archive].

Earlier this month, the Alabama Attorney General's Office [office website] requested that a certified question be answered by the Alabama Supreme Court [official website] prior to the commencement of district court proceedings. The attorney general wanted to ask the court to clarify the meaning of the provisions of HB 56 that void contracts with undocumented aliens and make transporting them a crime in light of the Alabama Constitution's religious freedom amendment [text]. Alabama lawmakers filed a response [JURIST report] to groups seeking a preliminary injunction against the controversial immigration law. Attorneys for Alabama state officials, argue that the state law is not preempted by federal immigration law and that the text reflects a "spirit of cooperation with the federal government." The legislation was signed into law [JURIST report] in June. Since that time, sixteen countries filed briefs [JURIST report] in the Alabama district court against the controversial law, arguing that it provides unfair treatment [Montgomery Advertiser report] to citizens of those countries currently residing in Alabama and sanctions discriminatory treatment based on ethnicity.

 

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