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ACLU files lawsuit challenging Alabama immigration law

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] announced Friday that it is filing a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging a controversial Alabama law [HB 56 text; materials] that expands restrictions on undocumented immigrants. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama [official website], seeks injunctive relief to stop the law's enforcement and a declaration that the entire law is unconstitutional. The law contains measures comparable to those passed in Arizona [JURIST report] last year including authorizing police officers to detain an individual on "reasonable suspicion" the individual is in the country illegally, and requirements that businesses use the federal E-Verify system [official website] to determine whether potential employees are legal residents. The ACLU argues that HB 56 is preempted by federal law and that, among other constitutional violations, it violates the Fourth Amendment by subjecting citizens and non-citizens with permission to be in the US to unreasonable searches and seizures. The complaint says, "HB 56 is reminiscent of the worst aspects of Alabama's history in its pervasive and systematic targeting of a class of persons through punitive state laws that seek to render every aspect of daily life more difficult and less equal." The law indicates that unlawful immigration increases education costs, crime, and economic hardship, and that the bill protects the public interest of Alabama citizens.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [official website] signed the HB 56 into law last month a week after it the legislature passed it [JURIST report]. In addition to authorizing detention of individuals on reasonable suspicion they are illegal immigrants, the law provides harsh restrictions on employment for illegal immigrants. 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. In May, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] upheld [JURIST report] in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] an Arizona employment law that imposes penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants 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.Similar laws have been passed in Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah [JURIST reports]. Federal courts have enjoined the laws in Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Utah [JURIST reports].

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