Alabama's new immigration law cannot prevent immigrants from renewing required permits on manufactured homes, a federal judge in Montgomery ruled.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday evening that allows Alabama residents to renew registration of manufactured homes without requiring that they prove that they are in the country legally. The deadline for renewing the registration without being fined is Nov. 30.
Attorneys for a coalition of civil rights groups said earlier that by refusing to renew the permits, state officials could force people to abandon their homes.
Thompson granted the order because he said plaintiffs had "a substantial" likelihood of proving their case. He also said in his order that state officials had not set up a proper way for manufactured home owners to prove they are legal U.S. residents.
Thompson ordered Alabama Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee to inform officials in all 67 Alabama counties that they are not to withhold the permits from immigrants. He made the ruling several hours after holding a hearing in which a coalition of civil rights attorneys argued withholding the permits was part of a plan to run immigrants out of the state.
The law has been described by critics and supporters as the toughest crackdown on illegal immigrants in the country.
In his ruling Thompson said validating legal immigration status is a federal function and state officials have taken no steps to use one of several federal programs to determine the status of manufactured home recipients.
The House and Senate sponsors of the immigration bill, approved by the Legislature earlier this year, both testified Wednesday a purpose of their legislation was to encourage illegal immigrants to leave the state.
"My purpose was to make it difficult for illegal immigrants to live and work in Alabama," said the House sponsor, Republican Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur. The wide ranging law effects many daily facets of life for immigrants, including allowing police to detain people they suspect of being an illegal immigrant and making it illegal to employ illegal aliens.
The Senate sponsor, Sen. Scott Beason, a Republican from Gardendale, said he believes illegal immigrants take the jobs that should go to "legal Alabama taxpayers." He also said he believes they bring diseases such as tuberculosis into the U.S.