[JURIST] A group of immigrants in Alabama filed a lawsuit Wednesday in the Montgomery County Circuit Court [official website] to challenge the controversial Alabama immigration law [HB 56 text] as in violation of the state constitution. HB 56, signed into law last month [JURIST report], expands restrictions on undocumented immigrants by allowing law enforcement to detain individuals under “reasonable suspicion” they are undocumented and forces employers to verify the immigration status of potential employees. The five plaintiffs include [Fox News report] two Mexican immigrants, two undocumented immigrants who remain anonymous and another anonymous plaintiff who is married to an undocumented immigrant. This lawsuit differs from the one filed earlier this month [JURIST report] in federal court by rights groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] because it focuses on violations of state law. Thomas Drake II, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said that the Alabama constitution is more liberal [The Huntsville Times report] than the US Constitution because it protects a broader variety of rights and that they also plan to join the ACLU lawsuit. The Alabama Constitution [text] says in Article I § 30, “[t]hat immigration shall be encouraged; emigration shall not be prohibited, and no citizen shall be exiled.” The ACLU lawsuit 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 ACLU and the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama [advocacy website] filed a motion for a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] to block the implementation of HB 56 which is set to take effect on September 1. The rights groups argue that they are entitled to a preliminary injunction because of their substantial likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable injury to plaintiffs and because the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [official website] signed HB 56 into law last month, just one week after it was passed by the legislature [JURIST reports]. 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. Similar laws have been passed in Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah [JURIST reports]. Federal courts have enjoined laws in Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, Oklahoma and Utah [JURIST reports].