Both Sides Claim Victory in Court Ruling on Alabama Immigration Law
Immigration advocates praised a federal appeals court’s ruling Friday temporarily blocking key provisions of Alabama’s strict immigration law, but said troubling provisions still remain.
Advocates for more flexible immigration laws said they were especially relieved that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta had blocked a part from remaining in effect that called on school officials to check the immigration status of students at the time of enrollment.
That provision had filled many families with fear since the law took effect in recent weeks, and school districts around the state reported unusually high absences.
The opinion also blocked a part of the law that makes it a crime for immigrants to not have proper documentation.
Meanwhile, Alabama officials who support the law said they were glad that the court allowed most of the measure to remain in effect. Like officials of other states that have passed their own immigration laws, Alabama political leaders say the federal government has failed to control illegal immigration, and has forced states to take matters into their own hands.
The court let stand a provision that allows police to detain immigrants that are suspected of being in the country illegally. It also let stand parts that forbid courts from enforcing contracts in which one party is an undocumented immigrant, and also others that don’t allow undocumented immigrants to have driver’s or business licenses.
"Once again, we're pleased that the majority and most effectual parts of this law will remain in place,” said Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, according to the news website AL.com.
“We've said from the beginning that Alabama will have a strict immigration law and we will enforce it. Alabama will not be a sanctuary state for illegal aliens, and this ruling reinforces that.”
But immigration advocates vowed to keep fighting to get the Alabama law permanently blocked.
“We are pleased that the court blocked these damaging elements of the law,” said a statement by a coalition that includes civil rights groups that have sued Alabama over the law. “But portions of the law that remain in place will continue to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Alabama.”
“In just two weeks that the law has been in effect, families have been fleeing the state, children have been pulled out of schools, and businesses have been put in jeopardy,” the coalition said. “This law sadly revisits Alabama’s painful racial past and tramples the rights of all its residents.”
The coalition includes the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, among others.
Alabama's law was considered by both opponents and supporters to be stricter than similar laws enacted in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. Federal judges in those states have blocked all or parts of those measures.
The Justice Department has called the Alabama law a "sweeping new state regime" and urged the appeals court to forbid states from creating a patchwork of immigration policies.
The agency also said the law could strain diplomatic relations with Latin American countries, who have warned the law could impact millions of workers, tourists and students in the U.S.
The law, it said, turns undocumented immigrants into a "unique class who cannot lawfully obtain housing, enforce a contract, or send their children to school without fear that enrollment will be used as a tool to seek to detain and remove them and their family members."
"Other states and their citizens are poorly served by the Alabama policy, which seeks to drive aliens from Alabama rather than achieve cooperation with the federal government to resolve a national problem," the attorneys have said in court documents.
The Administration stance was caustically noted by Hubbard.
"We also remain perplexed and disappointed at the Obama administration's hypocrisy on this issue,” Hubbard said, according to AL.com. “ It would be amusing if not so harmful to our country. While the federal government sues to prolong and exacerbate the illegal immigration problem, Alabama is taking action to ensure the laws of our land are upheld."
This story contains material from The Associated Press.
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