Alabama's Tough New Immigration Law Can Withstand Legal Challenges, Experts Say

Published June 11, 2011

| FoxNews.com

Alabama's new law cracking down on illegal immigrants will likely survive legal challenges from advocacy groups that say it is unconstitutional and racist, analysts told Fox News.

The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, empowers police to arrest people suspected of being an illegal immigrant if they are stopped for another reason and requires businesses and schools to verify whether workers and students are in the country lawfully. It also makes it a crime to knowingly transport or shelter illegal immigrants.

As soon as Republican Gov. Robert Bentley signed the bill into law Thursday, the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center were vowing to defeat it in court.

"It is clearly unconstitutional. It's mean-spirited, racist, and we think a court will enjoin it," said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"By signing this bill into law, Gov. Bentley has codified official discrimination in the state of Alabama," said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "We will take action to keep this law from going into effect to ensure that the civil rights and liberties of all Alabamans are protected."

Legal experts told Fox News that they expect the case to head to the Supreme Court where they believe the state will prevail.

"I think the states have the right to do this," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. "I think it will be successful."

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates strict immigration laws, says the one in Alabama is fair.

"It does not go too far," he said. "The ACLU will object to anything that involves immigration enforcement."

"There are a lot of different pieces to it but I think probably the most important part is completely fair and very neutral and very effective, is requiring all businesses when they hire someone to check that info, the Social Security number against the federal government online E-verify system. Common sense. It works well."

There are an estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants in Alabama, a nearly fivefold increase from a decade ago, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Alabama isn't the only Southern state cracking down on illegal immigrants. Georgia passed a similar measure a few weeks ago and that law goes into effect July 1. Civil liberties groups have already sued that state in an attempt to block the law.

The Alabama law was modeled on Arizona's. A federal judge blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona's law last year after the Justice Department sued. The case appears headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. A less restrictive law in Utah also was blocked after a lawsuit was filed.

"The states are sick and tired of the federal government basically doing nothing to protect the individual citizens from what is a serious problem," Sekulow said.

Krikorian said these laws send a clear message to illegal immigrants.

"The point is to make it as difficult as possible for an illegal alien to put down roots, to make it hard to live a normal life," he said, explaining that not being able to get a job or an apartment makes it less appealing to be an illegal alien.

"So if you are thinking of going there, you think twice, and if you are illegal already, you think seriously about packing up and leaving," he said.

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