Bloomberg News

Alabama Opposes U.S. Bid to Delay Immigration Law for Appeal

October 11, 2011

(Updates with Indiana announcement in 17th paragraph.)

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- A new Alabama law allowing police to question the immigration status of people stopped for reasons such as suspicious behavior shouldn’t be blocked pending appeal, state Attorney General Luther Strange told a U.S. appeals court.

The U.S. and civil rights groups are unlikely to win appeals of Birmingham Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn’s rulings last month upholding most of the act cracking down on illegal immigrants, Strange said in court papers. The government and the groups are seeking to keep the law from taking effect until the appeal is settled.

“This court should deny plaintiffs’ motions and decide these issues only after full briefing,” Strange said. “Plaintiffs have not shown that there will be such irreparable harm while this appeal is pending to justify giving short shrift to issues of this importance and complexity.”

Blackburn on Sept. 28 rejected challenges to the police provision as well as other sections of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. She turned down requests to delay implementation of the statute during the appeal process.

First-term Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, signed the legislation on June 9. The federal government’s failure to enforce its own immigration laws made the measure necessary, he has said.

Sole Authority

The federal government maintains it alone has authority to set immigration policy. The rights groups contend the new laws are unconstitutional.

The legislation requires schools to collect data on the enrollment of children of unlawful residents, criminalizes the failure of those unlawfully in the U.S. to complete or carry alien registration documents, and makes it a felony for those illegally present to do business with the state or any of its political subdivisions.

The judge ruled in the federal government’s case, a parallel suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center, and another lawsuit by church leaders.

The civil rights groups also asked the appellate panel for an order preventing the state from enforcing those parts of the law being fought on appeal.

Blackburn barred the enforcement of parts of the act which made it illegal for unregistered aliens to apply for jobs or work in the state, as well as a provision making it a crime to transport or harbor them, which the church leaders had opposed.

Alabama is appealing rulings it lost.

Unlawfully Detained

Blackburn, in an Aug. 24 hearing, repeatedly questioned lawyers about whether the police-stop provision could result in people being unlawfully detained.

“There are a lot of problems with this statute,” Blackburn said at the time. “My job is to decide if this is constitutional.”

She was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

The judge said in a decision on Sept. 28 states are authorized to help enforce federal immigration law and that the Alabama statute “reflects an intent to cooperate.”

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, in an unrelated ACLU lawsuit challenging his state’s new immigration law, said he’s asking an Indianapolis federal judge to add the U.S. as a party needed to resolve the dispute.

Federal Guidance

“This case is about what authority the states have in the absence of federal guidance in immigration policy and enforcement,” Zoeller said today in a press statement. “The Department of Justice should represent the federal government and not leave it to others.”

Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the department is reviewing Indiana’s motion.

The cases are U.S. v. State of Alabama, 11-14532, and Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley, 11-14535, U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (Atlanta).

The Indiana case is Buquer v. City of Indianapolis, 11cv708, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana (Indianapolis).

--With assistance from Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware. Editors: Mary Romano, Fred Strasser

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at; Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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