Key Win for Alabama Immigrant Law
A federal judge Wednesday greenlighted key parts of an Alabama law aimed at curbing illegal immigration, rejecting the federal government's request to block them and strengthening the likelihood that the Supreme Court ultimately will decide whether states can pass their own immigration laws.
The Alabama law, widely seen as the nation's toughest, could embolden other states weighing stiff measures to stop illegal immigration after federal courts curbed such laws in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia in recent months. The federal government argues immigration is a federal matter.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn in the Northern District of Alabama upheld a contentious provision requiring police in Alabama "to make a reasonable attempt" to determine the immigration status of any individual they stop if there is "reasonable suspicion" the person is in the country illegally.
Wednesday's ruling also upheld a requirement that public schools determine if students were born outside the U.S. or are children of immigrants that are in the country illegally. Judge Blackburn upheld a section of HB56, as the law is known, making it a felony for an illegal immigrant to enter into a "business transaction" with the state of Alabama, among other provisions.
But Judge Blackburn enjoined other sections of the law in a 115-page ruling issued one day before a temporary injunction was set to expire, saying "there is a substantial likelihood" that the Justice Department can prove they are pre-empted by federal law. For example, she blocked clauses that would make it a misdemeanor crime for an undocumented immigrant to apply for work and that make it unlawful for anyone to transport an illegal resident. For now, Alabama authorities also won't be able to pursue civil cases against employers that fail to hire U.S. citizens while hiring or retaining illegal immigrants, among other measures.
Arizona was the first state to pass a law to rein in illegal immigration, in April 2010. The law isn't entirely in effect. Among other provisions, a federal judge blocked one that would require police to check the immigration status of those they stop if they suspect they are in the country illegally. Arizona has appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Alabama, Judge Blackburn slapped a temporary injunction on HB56 in August, after it was signed into law by Mr. Bentley in June.
Alabama's undocumented population, mostly from Latin America, totaled about 120,000 last year, up from 25,000 a decade earlier, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group.
The center also estimates illegal immigrants account for about 2.5% of the state's population, compared with 4.4% in Georgia and 6% in Arizona.
See also an article in The New York Times.