(Updates with department’s statement in second paragraph.)
Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Justice Department set up a hotline to field complaints about new Alabama immigration laws that the federal government went to court to block.
The phone line and an accompanying e-mail address were established “for the public to report potential civil rights concerns related to the impact” of the laws, Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said today in an e-mailed statement.
The U.S. is appealing a Sept. 28 ruling by U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn in Birmingham, Alabama, that permits the state to enforce much of the legislation signed in June by Governor Robert Bentley. Rebekah Mason, a spokeswoman for Bentley, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on the Justice Department announcement.
Arguing that only the U.S. can set immigration policy, the federal government sued to bar measures that allow police to question the immigration status of people detained for other reasons, that criminalize the failure of unregistered aliens to carry or produce necessary documents, and that make it a felony for those unlawfully in the country to do business with the state or any of its political subdivisions.
President Barack Obama’s administration has asked a U.S. appeals court in Atlanta to block those provisions until it rules on the federal appeal. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, in papers filed with the appeals court yesterday, opposed the interim relief request, arguing that granting it would give “short shrift” to complex and important issues.
Blackburn barred the enforcement of parts of the act that 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.
The appellate court has ordered expedited briefing on the substantive issues in the case. The U.S. must make its submission by Oct. 31. Alabama, which is also challenging some of the Blackburn rulings, has until Nov. 22 to respond.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center, which sued on behalf of a coalition of other civil rights organizations, are appealing parts of Blackburn’s Sept. 28 decision in their case.
The cases are U.S. v. State of Alabama, 11-14532, and Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley, 11-14535, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Atlanta).
--Editors: Andrew Dunn, Glenn Holdcraft
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