August 2nd, 2011
Obama Admin Challenges Alabama’s Anti-Latino Law

Yesterday the Department of Justice announced a lawsuit against the State of Alabama for its anti-Latino law that not only requires police to inquire about immigration status and penalizing employers hiring people without papers, but also requires children in schools to verify their status before enrolling.

Many believed that the law was already unconstitutional — given previous case law suggesting such — but many civil rights groups decried the law as an unprecedented breach of civil rights. Perhaps what made it all even worse was when Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks said he would “short of shooting” immigrants to prevent their migration.

Which is to say, the whole issue has been heated from day one. Now the Department of Justice’s lawsuit is going after Alabama’s state law because of how it interferes with federal responsibility for immigration:

In a complaint and brief filed in the Northern District of Alabama, the department said that various provisions of H.B. 56 conflict with federal immigration law and undermine the federal government’s careful balance of immigration enforcement priorities and objectives.   The brief filed today makes clear that, while the federal government values state assistance and cooperation with respect to immigration enforcement, a state cannot set its own immigration policy, much less pass laws that conflict with federal enforcement of the immigration laws.

Alabama’s law is designed to affect virtually every aspect of an unauthorized immigrant’s daily life, from employment to housing to transportation to entering into and enforcing contracts to going to school.  H.B. 56 further criminalizes mere unlawful presence and, like Arizona’s law, expands the opportunities for Alabama police to push aliens toward incarceration for various new immigration crimes by enforcing an immigration status verification system.

Consistent with the department’s position in United States v. Arizona, in which the department last year successfully obtained a preliminary injunction against Arizona’s S.B. 1070, the brief said that the mandates that H.B. 56 imposes on Alabama law enforcement may also result in the harassment and detention of foreign visitors, legal immigrants and even U.S. citizens who may not be able to readily prove their lawful status.  In addition, H.B. 56 will place significant burdens on federal agencies, diverting their resources away from dangerous criminal aliens and other high-priority targets.    In addition to interfering with law enforcement, H.B. 56 imposes further burdens on children by demanding that students prove their lawful presence, which could discourage parents from enrolling their children in school.

So there we have it. While the Obama Administration is taking on Arizona and Alabama in lawsuits, it has yet to take this step in Georgia, where another terrible law is actually devastating the economy of that state as immigrant workers leave.

Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD

[Photo By Svgalbertian]

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