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Department of Justice Sues Alabama Over Monster Anti-Immigration Bill, HB 56

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Alabam Immigration ProtestThe Department of Justice is trying to put a stop to the madness in Alabama, and is challenging the state’s very anti-immigrant law, HB 56. From the press release yesterday:

“Today’s action makes clear that setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility that cannot be addressed through a patchwork of state immigration laws,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.   “The department is committed to evaluating each state immigration law and making decisions based on the facts and the law.   To the extent we find state laws that interfere with the federal government’s enforcement of immigration law, we are prepared to bring suit, as we did in Arizona.”

Alabama’s immigration law is the worst yet, and affects undocumented immigrants in every sphere of life. The legislation, like all other SB 1070 copycat laws, intends to make life so uncomfortable for undocumented immigrants that it forces them out of the state. However, HB 56 goes steps further. From Jillian Rayfield at Talking Points Memo:

The federal complaint argues that the law, which is set to take effect Sept. 1, “exceeds a state’s role with respect to aliens, interferes with the federal government’s balanced administration of the immigration laws, and critically undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives.”

Moreover, the law, known as HB 56, “would result in the harassment and incarceration of lawful resident aliens — and even U.S. citizens who would not have readily available documentation to demonstrate their citizenship,” the government argued.

Unlike the immigration laws that have come before it, the Alabama monster also takes on education, by outright barring undocumented immigrants from enrolling in any public college after high school.  It forces parents to report the immigration status of their children to public schools, so that the schools can keep legal status records of all their students and document the costs of educating undocumented children. It pretty much forces teachers to act like ICE agents.

Alabama’s subscribers to the GOP’s mass deportation strategy are clearly not paying enough attention to the fate of other states that have passed anti-immigrant legislation. Arizona has gone broke trying to defend SB 1070, and lost several hundreds of millions of dollars from a boycott effort.  And as neighboring Georgia is learning, passing anti-immigrant legislation was not its smartest move.

The Georgia agriculture and restaurant industry now shoulder most of the burden. A state survey of farmers shows that they had 11,080 jobs open, and an electronic survey notes that nearly half of the 523 restaurateurs across the state who voluntarily participated are having trouble finding workers. As Mariano Cardoso notes:

Georgia is becoming a state that has food, but no immigrants to cook it, and is abundant in fruit, but has nobody to pick it. 

According to the release, the federal lawsuit in Alabama was filed on behalf of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and State. The Department of Education was also consulted. The outcome of the federal challenge is likely to resemble Arizona’s — the only question is whether Alabama, the ninth poorest state in the nation, will learn from its mistake or bulldoze ahead, and spend more resources defending a misguided and ineffective bill.