DOJ asks federal appeals court to block Alabama immigration law News
DOJ asks federal appeals court to block Alabama immigration law
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[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a motion in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] Friday to halt enforcement [motion, PDF] of a controversial Alabama immigration law [HB 56 text] that expands restrictions on undocumented immigrants. 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 DOJ argues that the “state regime contravenes the federal government’s exclusive authority over immigration” and that:

H.B. 56 creates a panoply of new state offenses that criminalize, among other things, an alien’s failure to comply with federal registration requirements that were enacted pursuant to Congress’s exclusive power to regulate immigration, an alien’s attempt to solicit or perform work, and an alien’s attempt to interact with state or local government. The law also invites discrimination against many foreign-born citizens and lawfully present aliens, including legal residents, by making it a crime for any landlord to rent housing to an unlawfully present alien, invalidating all contracts with unlawfully present aliens, and even targeting school-age children with an alien registration system.

Two similar motions for injunction were denied by the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama [official website] earlier this week and last month [JURIST reports]. Alabama state officials defend the law [JURIST report] and 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 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. Religious groups and representatives of several rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (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]. From when the legislation was signed into law [JURIST reports] in June, 16 countries filed briefs [JURIST report] 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.