[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] struck down [opinion, PDF] several provisions of Alabama’s controversial immigration law [HB 56, PDF] on Monday while upholding a few sections of the law. The court also rejected part of Georgia’s immigration law [HB 87, text]. The appeals court blocked four sections of HB 56, including a provision that requires public schools to check the immigration status of students and makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to solicit work. The court also struck down a portion of Georgia’s immigration law known as Section 7, which makes it a crime for anyone to harbor an undocumented immigrant or help an undocumented immigrant remain in the US. In striking down Section 7, the appeals court reasoned that the provision was preempted by federal law:
Although [illegal immigration] is a problem that gives rise to unique issues in our nation, we must be mindful that individual states ‘may not pursue policies that undermine federal law. … We are … convinced that Section 7 presents an obstacle to the execution of the federal statutory scheme and challenges federal supremacy in the realm of immigration.
While the court struck down many provisions of Alabama and Georgia’s immigration laws, it did uphold controversial provisions in both laws that allow police officers to check the immigration status of persons suspected of a crime.
Immigration laws [JURIST backgrounder] have became a hot button issue over the past few years when many states, Arizona being the first, passed laws giving their state and local officials more power to crack down on illegal immigration. On Friday Utah’s Attorney General argued that the state’s restrictive immigration law should be upheld [JURIST report] in light of the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Arizona v. United States [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. Last month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Immigration Law Center (NILC) [advocacy websites] asked [JURIST report] a federal judge to strike down a provision of Arizona’s law that requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop on Equal Protection grounds. The provision was upheld [JURIST report] by the US Supreme Court but only on the grounds that it did not conflict with the federal government’s powers regarding illegal immigration. This decision also struck down two provisions of Arizona’s law that made it a crime to be in the state or apply for a job in the state without valid immigration papers and one that allowed police officers to arrest without a warrant people whom they believed had committed a crime which could cause them to be deported. Other states’ laws have been challenged as well, but many have been made easier due to the Supreme Court’s ruling. Georgia argued [JURIST report] last month that its law is valid under the ruling, while Alabama conceded that some provisions of its law would need to be changed.