Deadline today in Alabama immigration lawsuits on effect of recent Supreme Court decision

Updated: Friday, July 06, 2012, 12:00 PM
By Brian Lawson, The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- How should Arizona's court battle influence Alabama's immigration law?

Today marks the deadline for the parties suing over Alabama's immigration law to file briefs with a federal appeals court as to how the Alabama law is affected by the recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court on Arizona's similar immigration law.

The State of Alabama is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department and, in a separate suit, by a group of 36 plaintiffs - including civil rights groups, unions and individuals. Both suits seek to block Alabama's far-reaching immigration law from being allowed to go forward.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said in March it would not rule on efforts to block the law or have the current injunctions lifted until the Arizona decision was handed down.

Last week appeals court asked the parties to file briefs explaining the impact of the Arizona decision, as well as the impact of recent changes the Legislature made to Alabama's immigration law.

Alabama's law includes: gathering information on students enrolling in a public school; barring entry for illegal immigrants to public colleges; barring illegal immigrants from entering contracts; criminalizing harboring and transporting an illegal immigrant; stopping an illegal immigrant from obtaining a driver's license, car tag or business license; requiring each Alabama business to verify their employees are legally eligible to work here; and authorizing residents to bring lawsuits against public officials if they believe the officials are not fully enforcing the new state law.

During the 2012 Alabama legislative session, some changes were made to the law, including clarifying language on college admission that had been faulted by the district court, narrowing banned government transactions to those involving business and driver's licenses and car tags, and making military IDs an acceptable form of proof of residency.

The recent legislative changes also called for the creation of a searchable Internet database listing any illegal immigrant who has appeared in an Alabama courtroom.

Alabama has argued that federal agencies are not doing enough to enforce immigration laws. Attorneys for the state have argued that Alabama's law complements federal enforcement and is not designed not to conflict with federal law.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruling generally held that immigration policy is the province of the federal government and states cannot set up their own immigration control systems. Yet the Supreme Court also said Congress did envision a role for local enforcement working in cooperation with federal immigration agencies.

In the Arizona case, the court did not block a measure requiring local police to check immigration status - based on reasonable suspicion - of people during traffic stops and other police contact. Alabama's law has a similar measure which has not been blocked by the courts.

Last year, as part of the Alabama lawsuits U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn in Birmingham blocked portions of Alabama's law, but left much of it intact. She ruled the state:

- Can't stop an "unauthorized alien" from seeking work.

- Can't prosecute those who assist unauthorized aliens. She blocked a large section that would make it against the law to conceal, harbor, transport or encourage an illegal alien to stay in Alabama.

- Can't stop businesses from deducting the wages they pay to unauthorized aliens from their state taxes.

- Can't create a new protected class of workers. The new law would have allowed workers who were fired or not hired in favor of unauthorized aliens to sue employers for discrimination.

As the two suits continued, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued additional injunctions, first in October and then again in March.

The appeals court last fall blocked sections dealing with gathering immigration status information about students enrolling in public schools and a provision modeled on federal law that made it a crime to not carry papers showing the person was legally in the U.S.

In March the court said Alabama can't bar residents from knowingly entering into contracts with illegal immigrants or ban illegal immigrants from entering business transactions with state and local governments.

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Deadline today in Alabama immigration lawsuits on effect of recent Supreme Court decision |