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Alabama AG asks state high court to weigh in on immigration law

The Alabama Attorney General's Office [official website] on Wednesday requested that a certified question be answered by the Alabama Supreme Court [official website] before the legal battle over the state's controversial immigration law [HB 56 text] commences in the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama [official website]. The plaintiffs filed a motion with District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn asking to certify to the state court what the provisions of HB 56 that void contracts with undocumented aliens and make transporting them a crime mean in light of the Alabama's Constitution's religious freedom amendment [text]. The Methodist, Episcopalian and Roman Catholic churches joined the US government in fighting the law [JURIST report] previously, arguing that the law criminalizes their missions as church leaders to provide mercy without having to verify immigration documentation. The Alabama attorney general is hoping the state court's answer will moot the litigation [Prattville Progress report].

Alabama lawmakers earlier this week filed a response [JURIST report] to groups seeking a preliminary injunction against the controversial immigration law. Attorneys for Alabama state officials, including Governor Robert Bentley [official website], 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." Lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice [JURIST report], the Methodist, Episcopalian and Roman Catholic churches and three dozen plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and National Immigration Law Center (NILC) [advocacy websites], were consolidated last week. The Alabama immigration legislation, which was signed into law [JURIST report] by Governor Bentley in June, is one of the most rigid immigration reform laws passed recently. 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. Sixteen countries filed briefs [JURIST report] in the Alabama district court against the controversial Alabama immigration law last week, arguing that the recently enacted law unfairly treats citizens [Montgomery Advertiser report] of those countries currently residing in Alabama and sanctions discriminatory treatment based on ethnicity.

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