In response to two lawsuits, one of which was brought by the U.S. Justice Department, a federal judge has blocked parts of the Alabama immigration enforcement law, while letting other parts go into effect. A third lawsuit challenging the law, which was brought by the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights groups, has yet to receive a ruling.
Judge Sharon Blackburn, a George H.W. Bush appointee, denied the federal government’s challenge to the parts of the law requiring police to attempt to verify the citizenship of anyone they stop, detain or arrest; requiring police to arrest anyone caught driving without a license for the purposes of verifying their citizenship; barring Alabama courts from enforcing contracts involving unauthorized immigrants; requiring unauthorized immigrants to carry an “alien registration document”; and making it a felony for an unauthorized immigrant to do business with the state.
Blackburn did not block a provision requiring public schools to count the number of undocumented children attending the school and report the number to the government.
The provisions the judge blocked made it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to work or apply for a job; prohibited employers from claiming tax credits based on wages paid to any undocumented workers; allowed people to sue employers who fails to hire or fires a U.S. citizen while hiring or employing an undocumented worker; and made it illegal to transport, “conceal, harbor or shield” an undocumented immigrant or encourage them to come to Alabama.
The latter section included a provision that would have made any landlord who rented to undocumented immigrants subject to criminal charges, punishable by up to 20 years in jail.
As our sister site The American Independent reported, the federal government’s lawsuits against Arizona and Alabama over their respective immigration laws have focused on the question of whether federal immigration law preempts state enforcement. The coalition of immigrant rights groups that have consistently challenged Arizona-style laws in each of the states that have passed them have sued on preemption as well as civil rights grounds.
“We will not know whether certain provisions of the law are blocked until the court rules in the civil rights coalition case,” a statement from the National Immigration Law Center said. ”For example, among other things, the civil rights coalition challenged the provision that chills access to K – 12 education on a constitutional ground not raised in the other cases, and therefore, this provision could still be blocked today on that basis.”
In the past, the courts have frowned upon efforts to regulate immigration through the school system, since a 1982 Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe, said that it was unconstitutional for states to deny undocumented children a public education.
The civil rights groups have also challenged the law on Fourth Amendment and due process grounds, as well as a First Amendment challenge alleging the law would restrict people’s access to the courts.