Bloomberg News

U.S., ACLU Ask Court to Overturn Alabama Immigration Laws

November 15, 2011

(Updates with ACLU arguments in 10th paragraph.)

Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Alabama’s new immigration laws, including a measure making it a felony for illegal aliens to do business with the state, are unconstitutional, the U.S. told a federal appeals court.

The U.S., which is seeking reversal of a Birmingham, Alabama, federal judge’s Sept. 28 ruling allowing the state to enforce that provision and others, filed a brief yesterday with the Atlanta-based appeals court. The American Civil Liberties Union also made a filing opposing the law.

“The Constitution leaves no room for such a state immigration-enforcement scheme,” the federal government argued in its brief. Admission and removal of aliens and the conditions under which they’re allowed to live in the U.S. are matters of national policy, according to the brief.

The Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, Signed into law by Governor Robert J. Bentley on June 9, requires public schools to determine the immigration status of newly enrolled students and their parents, and it criminalizes unlawful residents’ failure to carry registration papers.

On Oct. 14, the appellate court issued an order blocking those provisions while it reviews the rulings of U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn in Birmingham.

Temporarily Blocked

While Blackburn temporarily blocked parts of the measure that prohibit the harboring and transport of those who unlawfully enter the country, she allowed the state to enforce measures enabling police to question the status of people stopped for suspicious behavior and to take people arrested for driving without a license before a magistrate for determination of their status.

Joy Patterson and Suzanne Webb, spokeswomen for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, didn’t immediately reply to separate voice-mail messages seeking comment on the latest filings.

“We will continue to vigorously defend the law as we proceed through the appeals process,” Strange said in an Oct. 14 press statement after an appellate panel blocked enforcement of parts of the law.

Alabama, which is also appealing some of Blackburn’s rulings, has argued that it is filling gaps in federal enforcement efforts. Bentley, a Republican serving his first term in office, has said the state will defend the legislation against any and all challenges.

ACLU Brief

The ACLU said in its brief that the laws are designed to make daily living so difficult for undocumented workers that they will leave the state.

Under the law, a person who is seeking citizenship can be charged with a felony for paying a water bill, the ACLU said.

“This is a direct regulation of immigration as it effectively expels immigrants from Alabama by depriving them of the necessities of life,” the ACLU said.

The state has no legal reason or interest to regulate or establish hindrances to negotiating daily activities “aside from a desire to drive immigrants out of the State of Alabama,” the ACLU said.

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

--With assistance from Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta. Editors: Andrew Dunn, Charles Carter

To contact the reporters on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net; 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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