The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday filed a brief [text, PDF] in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] urging the court to strike down Alabama's immigration law [HB 56 text]. The DOJ filed its brief in response to a federal judge's September 28 ruling [opinion text] that allowed the state to enforce a provision that makes it a felony for an illegal alien to conduct business with the state, among other provisions. The DOJ argued in its brief that the Alabama immigration laws are preempted by federal laws regulating immigration in the US because of the Supremacy Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] in the US Constitution. The DOJ stated:
[D]eterminations about the conditions under which aliens may live in the United States, including unlawfully present aliens, based specifically on their status as such, are reserved for the National Government. It is the National Government that is responsive to the competing goals of immigration policy on behalf of all the States and to the foreign policy concerns that must inform determinations about how foreign nationals in our Nation should be treated. ... H.B. 56 acts as a state immigration policy and not as a mechanism to regulate areas of legitimate state interest.The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a separate brief [text, PDF] also asking the court to overturn the new law. The ACLU's brief argued that the laws are designed to make life in Alabama so difficult for illegal aliens that they will be forced to leave the state [JURIST op-ed]. Like the DOJ, the ACLU also argued that Alabama's law is a direct attempt to regulate immigration, which is an area that the states have no legitimate interest in regulating and is left only to the federal government to legislate.
In October, the Eleventh Circuit temporarily blocked [JURIST report] portions of the law after the US District Court for Northern Alabama [official website] twice refused to do so. Religious groups and representatives of several rights groups including the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy websites] have stated that the Alabama law is the most extreme of the recent state anti-immigration laws influenced by controversial Arizona SB 1070 [JURIST news archive]. Since 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.