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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Department of Justice Files Lawsuit against Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law

August 2, 2011 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

The Department of Justice announced yesterday that it has filed a lawsuit in district court challenging the constitutionality of Alabama's new anti-immigrant law, H.B. 56, considered by many civil and human rights and immigration advocates to be the most draconian law of its kind in the nation.

The suit alleges that provisions in the law "conflict with federal immigration law and undermine the federal government’s careful balance of immigration enforcement priorities and objectives."

"Today's action makes clear that setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility that cannot be addressed through a patchwork of state immigration laws," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. "The department is committed to evaluating each state immigration law and making decisions based on the facts and the law. To the extent we find state laws that interfere with the federal government's enforcement of immigration law, we are prepared to bring suit, as we did in Arizona."

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed H.B. 56 into law in June as an anti-immigrant measure that goes even further than the legislation it is modeled on, Arizona's S.B. 1070, which encouraged racial profiling by requiring law enforcement officers to stop, question, detain, and arrest anyone that they have a "reasonable suspicion" to believe is undocumented.

H.B. 56, which is set to take effect on September 1, includes Arizona's "reasonable suspicion" clause and takes it a step further by authorizing the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to hire and maintain its own immigration police force.

The new law even turns Alabama schools into immigration agents by requiring them to verify the immigration status of students and report it to the state, and bars the undocumented from seeking higher education in Alabama. It also interferes with their ability to rent housing, earn a living, and enter into contracts, and prohibits transporting or “harboring” any undocumented immigrant while instituting stiff penalties for anyone who breaks this law.

Following the passage of S.B. 1070 last year, nearly half of the nation’s state legislatures were considering similar laws. However, amid growing concern about the hidden costs and growing public opposition—from the business community, law enforcement officials, and civil rights, faith, labor, and social justice organizations—many of these laws have suffered setback or defeat.

These copycat bill have only become law in four other states besides Alabama – Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah.

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