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Federal Courts Consider Constitutionality of Alabama and Georgia’s Anti-Immigrant Laws

by Pili Tobar on 03/01/2012 at 3:43pm

court of appealsToday in Atlanta a three judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit will hear arguments over Alabama’s and Georgia’s anti-immigration laws.  In mid-April, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about Arizona’s “show me your papers” law S.B. 1070, the precursor to the Alabama and Georgia anti-immigrant initiatives. 

While it remains to be seen if the 11th Circuit and the Supreme Court will protect the civil rights of millions of people of color or not, the costs and consequences of these state anti-immigrant laws are already devastatingly clear.  As Jon Blazer, Advocacy and Policy Counsel for ACLU, wrote on Huffington Post, “in a sense, the verdict is already out. Constitutional questions aside, these laws are increasingly viewed as a failed experiment exacting intolerable human tolls, alarming economic costs and genuine political risks.”

Blazer notes that many jurisdictions throughout the country are having second thoughts about repeating these mistakes.  As he wrote:

Last year, two dozen states considered ‘show me your papers’ laws inspired by Arizona’s S.B. 1070.  Five states enacted similar laws, and for a moment, momentum appeared to surge in their favor.  With nearly every one of this year’s state legislative sessions now underway, it is clear that a shift is occurring.  In state after state, legislatures that had vowed to adopt sweeping new immigration restrictions are now taking pause.  

What happened?  First, in Alabama, the one state where courts have allowed a broad set of novel restrictions to go into effect, a humanitarian and civil liberties crisis has ensued…Second, legislators are coming to grip with the financial costs of these laws…Finally, politicians are growing concerned about the possibility of constituent backlash.  The recall of State Senator Russell Pearce, the architect of Arizona’s law, and the first recall of a sitting senate president in the nation’s history, has been a common reference point for those worried not only about their own vulnerability as candidates, but also with the long-term viability of their party in the face of a growing Latino vote.

Giving your state a reputation for intolerance, harassing people because of the way they look, and costing your state’s economy is hardly a way for state legislators to help their states move forward.  Far from being a ‘model’ for the nation, as was recently suggested by Mitt Romney, the ‘show me your papers’ approach is a cautionary tale for states about what not to do.  It’s time for the 11th Circuit and the Supreme Court to step in and protect the civil rights of people of color and the constitutional prerogatives of the federal government.

For more information, view America’s Voice Education Fund Overview: “How Much Would an Arizona-Style Immigration Law Cost Your State?”

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