Federal judge refuses to enjoin most of Alabama immigration law

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama on Wednesday refused to block key parts of Alabama's recently passed immigration law. Chief Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, in a 115-page memorandum opinion [text, PDF], ruled that the federal government's challenge to the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act [HB 56 text] had not met the requirements for a preliminary injunction [AP report] on a majority of the act's provisions. Blackburn did enjoin enactment of certain specifications, but included only the four sections that would 1) make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to solicit work, 2) make it a crime to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant, 3) allow discrimination lawsuits against companies that dismiss legal workers while hiring illegal immigrants and 4) forbid businesses from taking tax deductions for wages paid to workers who are in the country illegally. In her evaluation of the requirements for judicial injunction of a legislative act, the judge the concluded:

that there is a substantial likelihood that the United States will succeed on the merits of its claim that Sections 11(a), 13, 16, and 17 of H.B. 56 are preempted by federal law. The court further finds that the United States will suffer irreparable harm if these sections of H.B. 56 are not enjoined, the balance of equities favors the entry of an injunction, and its entry would not be adverse to the public interest. Therefore, the Motion for Preliminary Injunction will be granted as to these sections.
Among the portions of the law that escaped the preliminary injunction are provisions that require immigration status checks of public school students and of suspects pulled over by police, allow police to hold suspected illegal immigrants without bond, bar state courts from enforcing contracts involving illegal immigrants, make it a felony for an illegal immigrant to do business with the state and make it a misdemeanor for an illegal resident not to have immigration papers. State decisions on whether to begin enforcing these provisions have not yet been announced [Reuters report], but last month's temporary injunction on the whole act [JURIST report] is set to expire at the end of this month. Republican Governor Robert Bentley [official website] said he would fight to get the full law upheld and the state's attorney general said officials were weighing whether to appeal immediately or wait until the judge issues her final decision.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], joined by several rights groups, appeared before the court last month [JURIST report] to make arguments against the law's enactment, at which point Blackburn issued the temporary injunction to forestall enactment of the challenged provisions while she evaluated their contention with federal statute. 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] have stated that the Alabama law is the most extreme of the recent state anti-immigration laws influenced by controversial Arizona SB 1070 [JURIST news archive]. Alabama lawmakers have defended the legislation, which was signed into law [JURIST reports] in June. Since that time, 16 countries filed briefs [JURIST report] in the Alabama district court against the controversial law, arguing that it provides unfair treatment to citizens of those countries currently residing in Alabama and sanctions discriminatory treatment based on ethnicity.

 

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