Alabama lawmakers defend immigration law

[JURIST] Alabama lawmakers on Friday filed a response [text, PDF] to groups seeking a preliminary injunction against the controversial Alabama immigration law [HB 56 text] that expands restrictions on undocumented immigrants. 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." The law contains mechanisms safeguarding against unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, the attorneys contend, and allegations suggesting provisions of the law would deter students from enrolling in school are speculative. The three lawsuits challenging the Alabama immigration law, brought by the US Department of Justice, the Methodist, Episcopalian and Roman Catholic churches and three dozen plaintiffs [JURIST reports] 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 law is currently slated to go into effect on September 1, though a hearing has been schedule for August 24 in the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama [official website].

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. A group of immigrants filed a lawsuit in an Alabama state court [JURIST report] in late July arguing that the Alabama immigration law conflicts with the Alabama Constitution [text], which expressly encourages 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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