Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [official website] on Thursday signed into law an immigration bill [HB 56 text; materials] expanding restrictions on undocumented immigrants. The bill, passed by the Alabama legislature [JURIST report] last week, includes measures comparable to those passed in Arizona [JURIST report] last year. The bill permits police officers to detain a person stopped for a traffic violation if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" the person is in the country illegally. The officer must then try to determine the individual's identity by checking other records if the motorist is unable to provide documentation. The bill also requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify system [official website] to determine whether potential employees are legal residents. Businesses cited multiple times for hiring undocumented workers could lose their business licenses. Furthermore, undocumented immigrants are prohibited from applying for a job, and anyone transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants will be punished by a fine or jail time. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website] announced that it, along with other civil liberties groups, will challenge the constitutionality [press release] of the law. ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Olivia Turner condemned the governor's decision:
By signing this bill into law, Gov. Bentley is willing to sacrifice the civil liberties of all Alabamans, eroding the rights of millions of people living and working in this state. This law undermines core American values of fairness and equality, subjecting both citizens and non-citizens alike to unlawful racial profiling, and does nothing to ensure the safety and economic security of Alabama.Alabama's law, which will go into effect on September 1, is more restrictive than Arizona's employment immigration law, which the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] upheld [JURIST report] last month.
Early in June, the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) [official website] and a coalition of other civil rights groups filed a class action [JURIST report] lawsuit challenging a similar Georgia immigration law. Last month, the Supreme Court upheld an Arizona employment law that imposes penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants, ruling that the law is not preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) [text]. The ruling opens the door for states to enact similar restraints on immigration. Several states have already enacted or proposed [JURIST reports] tough new immigration laws. In March, the Oklahoma State Senate [official website] approved [JURIST report] a bill that would give police officers the authority to question the citizenship status of any person lawfully stopped for a traffic violation and arrest them without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe the person is in the country illegally. Also in March, Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official website] signed an immigration law requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested for an alleged felony or serious misdemeanor, but a federal judge blocked [JURIST reports] it less than 24 hours after it took effect. In February, the Indiana Senate [official website] approved a bill [JURIST report] requiring suspected illegal immigrants to provide proof of their legal status and calls for all public meetings, websites, and documents to be in English only.