Alabama defends immigration law in federal appeals court

[JURIST] Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange [official website] on Tuesday submitted a filing in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] asking the court not to stay the state's controversial immigration law [text]. The filing was in response to a motion filed last week by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], which requested that the court halt enforcement [JURIST report] of the state's immigration law [HB 56 text] that expands restrictions on undocumented immigrants, arguing that the state law is preempted by federal immigration law. Strange argued that the law is necessary to address the problem of illegal immigrants "taking jobs away from United States citizens and authorized aliens who desperately want to work in these hard economic times." Strange also argued that an injunction of the law would confuse the public and cause long-lasting harm, while allowing officials to enforce the law as the case proceeds would promote consistency. The law requires school officials to verify the immigration status of children and parents, authorizes police to detain an individual and ask for papers if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" that the driver is in the country illegally, and requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify system [official website] to determine whether potential employees are legal residents.

The US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama [official website] denied two similar motions for injunction last week and last month [JURIST reports]. Alabama state officials have defended the law [JURIST report] and argue that the state law is not preempted by federal immigration law. The state officials point out that the law contains mechanisms safeguarding against unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin and allegations suggesting provisions of the law would deter students from enrolling in school are speculative. The DOJ, joined by several rights groups, appeared before the court in August [JURIST report] to make arguments against the law's enactment, at which point Chief Justice Sharon Lovelace Blackburn issued the temporary injunction to forestall enactment of the challenged provisions while she evaluated their contention with federal statute. From when the legislation was signed into law in June, 16 countries filed briefs [JURIST reports] in the Alabama district court against the controversial law, arguing that it provides unfair treatment to citizens of those countries currently residing in Alabama and sanctions discriminatory treatment based on ethnicity.

 

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