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ACLU and Other Civil Rights Organizations Challenge Alabama’s Extreme Anti-Immigrant Law

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Today, in Montgomery, Alabama, the American Civil Liberties Union, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, the Asian American Justice Center and the Asian Law Caucus have filed a class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of HB 56, Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, which Alabama Gov. Robert J. Bentley recently signed into law. From SPLC’s release:

“We have filed this lawsuit today because Alabama’s immigration law is blatantly unconstitutional,” said SPLC Legal Director Mary Bauer. “This law revisits the state’s painful racial past and tramples the rights of all Alabama residents. It should never become the law of the land.”

The lawsuit also charges that the law’s provisions regarding education will deter children from immigrant families from enrolling in public schools and will bar many non-citizens lawfully within the country from attending public colleges or universities in Alabama. These provisions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and are contrary to U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Other provisions deny individuals access to the state’s judicial system due to their immigration status – depriving them of due process guaranteed by the Constitution.

Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, which is the fifth such state law to pass, is the most extreme in the nation. So far, none of these discriminatory state laws have been fully implemented due to legal challenges.

“Alabama has brazenly enacted this law despite the clear writing on the wall: Federal courts have stopped each and every one of these discriminatory laws from going into effect,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Local Alabama communities and people across the country are shocked and dismayed by the state’s effort to erode our civil rights and fundamental American values.”

HB 56 is by far the worst anti-immigrant law yet. As we reported in an earlier blog post, Alabama’s Extreme Immigration Law Even Trumps Arizona’s SB 1070, the Alabama bill copies some portions of Arizona’s 17-page law verbatim. Take note at how the anti-immigrant law in Alabama would:

  • Allow local law enforcement to demand papers from and detain those they believe are in the country illegally. 

  • Make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to hold a job in Alabama, and make it a crime for any immigrant in the state to be caught without documentation proving status. 

  • Make it illegal to sign a contract with undocumented immigrants, to knowingly rent property to them, to knowingly hire them for jobs. 

  • Require businesses to use E-Verify, the government database of names, to check employees’ legal status.

Unlike the immigration laws that have come before it, Alabama’s bill would force parents to report the immigration status of their children to public schools so that the schools could keep legal status records of all their students and document the costs of educating undocumented children.

Georgia has found itself in an agricultural rut ever since it decided to pass its extreme immigration law, and Arizona is practically broke trying to defend the bill that started it all, but that doesn’t stop Alabama from passing the mother of all anti-immigrant bills. You could only expect Alabama to witness the toll incurred by Arizona and decide not only to model itself after that state’s law, but to go a step beyond.