Bloomberg News

Alabama Immigration Law Enforcement Delay Bid Rejected by Judge

October 06, 2011

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Enforcement of parts of Alabama’s new immigration law won’t be put on hold while the U.S. Justice Department appeals a Sept. 28 court ruling allowing them to take effect, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn in Birmingham, Alabama, yesterday denied the federal government’s request, saying she didn’t foresee a “substantial” case for reversal of her decision last week. The measures she upheld include allowing police to make a “reasonable attempt” to determine the immigration status of a person otherwise detained or arrested.

“Alabama has an interest in enforcing laws properly enacted by its legislature and not likely to be found unconstitutional,” Blackburn said in a four-page ruling.

In a separate order, she denied a similar bid for delay in enforcement requested by civil rights groups in a parallel case.

Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, signed the Alabama immigration legislation on June 9.

The law, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, includes provisions requiring public schools to collect data on the enrollment of children of unlawful residents and criminalizing the failure of illegal immigrants to complete or carry alien registration documents.

The U.S. sued to prevent its enactment, arguing that immigration policy can only be set by the federal government, not the states.

Schools, Licenses

Blackburn’s Sept. 28 ruling allowed Alabama to enforce the parts of the law that makes failure to carry documentation a misdemeanor, as well as the school data portion of the law and a provision enabling police to take drivers arrested without a valid license before a magistrate for determination of their citizenship.

Unlicensed drivers found to be in the U.S. illegally can then be detained for prosecution or turned over to federal immigration agents.

Blackburn barred enforcement of provisions that prevented undocumented people from applying for jobs or working in the state, and that prohibit them from being harbored or transported. The judge was appointed to the federal court by Republican President George H.W. Bush.

Bentley then called the judge’s decisions a “victory” for Alabama.

“I remain committed to seeing that this law is fully implemented,” the governor said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “We will continue to defend this law against any and all challenges.”

Appeals Case

The federal government on Sept. 30 asked Blackburn to delay enforcement while it challenged her prior rulings at the U.S. appeals court in Atlanta. Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on yesterday’s decision.

“We’re extremely concerned about the continued harm that this law will have on everyone in the state of Alabama,” Andre Segura, an ACLU attorney, said yesterday in a phone interview. The organization has received reports that children are being held out of school there “out of fear of the effects of the law.”

The New York-based group will ask the Atlanta appellate court for an emergency order barring enforcement of the challenged provisions, Segura said.

The federal government’s case is U.S. v. Bentley, 11- cv-02746, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama (Birmingham). The civil rights groups’ case is Hispanic Interest Coalition v. Bentley, 11-cv-2484, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama (Birmingham).

--Editors: Fred Strasser, Michael Hytha

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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