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Justice Department Sets Up Hotline for Foes of Alabama’s Immigration Law

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Oct. 6: In this photo taken from video, Jazmin Rivera, right, a case manager with the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, works with an unidentified immigrant in her office in Birmingham, Ala.AP

Opponents of Alabama’s new immigration law can now call the Justice Department directly to make complaints about the state’s effort to crack down on illegal immigrants.

The Justice Department has set up a hotline and email for the public “to report potential civil rights concerns related to the impact of Alabama’s immigration law.”

The Justice Department is seeking to block the enforcement of the law, which is widely considered the toughest in the nation. Justice officials filed a challenge to the law last week, claiming it is “highly likely to expose persons lawfully in the United States, including school children, to new difficulties in routine dealings.”

Alabama responded by defending its right to enforce the law and the Justice Department filed its latest salvo this week.

“The Constitution does not vest Alabama with authority to deter illegal immigration except through means contemplated by Congress,” the department’s filing said. “The statute marks a radical departure in the treatment of aliens in the United States, resulting in significant adverse implications for our foreign policy, hardships for aliens lawfully in the United States, and burdens on other States of the Union.”

The overhaul allows authorities to question people suspected of being in the country illegally and hold them without bond. It also lets officials check the immigration status of students in public schools.

A federal judge in Alabama upheld those two key aspects of the law, which have already taken effect.

Those provisions that took effect are what help make the Alabama law stricter than similar laws passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. Other federal judges have blocked all or parts of the laws in those states.

Immigration became a hot issue in Alabama over the past decade as the state's Hispanic population grew by 145 percent to about 185,600. While the group still represents only about 4 percent of the population, some counties in north Alabama have large Spanish-speaking communities and schools where most of the students are Hispanic.