Bloomberg News

Alabama Immigration Act Enforcement Partly Delayed by Court

October 14, 2011

(Updates with Alabama governor’s comment in 12th paragraph.)

Oct. 14 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. appeals court temporarily blocked Alabama laws making it a crime for illegal immigrants to not carry registration papers and forcing schools to determine the legal status of students as they enroll.

The Atlanta-based court today also rejected requests by the U.S. and, separately, by civil rights groups to bar enforcement of other provisions of legislation signed by state Governor Robert Bentley on June 9.

The federal government and the rights groups showed a “substantial likelihood” they would win their challenges to the barred provisions of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act and a likelihood of irreparable harm if those measures were enforced, the three-judge panel said. The rulings are provisional and remain in effect only until the appellate court considers the underlying legal challenges.

“Today’s order recognizes that there’s a need to put the brakes on this misguided law,” said Andre Segura, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups opposing the school-tracking provision and other aspects of the act.

The U.S. Justice Department and the rights groups challenged the constitutionality of the legislation. The U.S. also argued that regulating immigration is solely the province of the federal government.

Alabama isn’t seeking to supplant the U.S. role, state Attorney General Luther Strange said in a filing that opposed delaying enforcement of the act while it’s on appeal.

‘Traditional’ Powers

The legislation draws on the state’s “traditional police powers,” and helps ensure that federal immigration law is respected, Strange said.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn in Birmingham, Alabama, last month rejected arguments against those measures in rulings on the separate lawsuits.

Blackburn blocked parts of the act that would make it a crime to hire people living unlawfully in the U.S. or to harbor or transport them. She declined to bar statutes empowering police to question the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons and making it a felony for unregistered aliens to do business with Alabama or its political subdivisions.

The judge also denied requests to stay enforcement of those parts of the act she found lawful while the rights groups and the U.S. appealed her rulings.

‘Lengthy Legal Process’

Alabama has told the appellate court it too seeks to overturn some of her decisions.

“Today’s decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is simply one more step in what we knew would be a lengthy legal process,” Bentley, a Republican, said in an e-mailed statement in which he reaffirmed his determination to defend the legislation.

“If the federal government had done its job by enforcing its own immigration laws, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

“We are pleased that the 11th Circuit has blocked Alabama’s registration provisions which criminalized unlawful presence and chilled access to a public education,” the Justice Department said in an e-mailed statement. “We continue to believe that the other key provisions we challenged are also preempted, and we look forward to the upcoming consideration by the court of appeals of the merits of the appeal.”

The appeals court directed the U.S. and the civil rights groups to file their substantive briefs by Oct. 31. The state’s opposition papers are due by Nov. 22.

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, Fred Strasser

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net; Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta at lviele@bloomberg.net

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


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