In late September, a federal district court blocked certain portions of Alabama’s controversial immigration law, HB 56, from taking effect, ruling that there is a substantial likelihood that the U.S. government can establish that the provisions are preempted by federal law. The provisions upheld, however, include those that authorize local police to inquire about a driver’s immigration status during routine traffic stops or arrests if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the United States illegally; and requires public schools to verify students’ immigration status. The law also provides that undocumented foreign nationals can be charged criminally for willful failure to carry federal immigration papers, and any contracts entered into by an individual who is undocumented as well as transactions between any division of the state and an undocumented immigrant are legally nullifiable. The Department of Justice (DOJ) sought an emergency stay of the decision at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on October 7th.
While the status of the law remains uncertain, its effects are already being felt. Many undocumented immigrants are fleeing the state, workers are no longer reporting to their jobs, and undocumented children (and children of undocumented parents) are no longer attending classes. In requesting the emergency stay, the DOJ claimed that the new law was highly likely to expose persons lawfully here, including schoolchildren, to new difficulties in their daily affairs, and that the legislation could impact diplomatic relations with foreign countries. DOJ set up a hot line to report potential civil rights concerns related to the impact of Alabama’s immigration law. Call 1‐855‐353‐1010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
While clearly one of the most draconian new state laws, the National Conference of State Legislature reports that from January 1 to June 30, 2011, 40 state legislatures have passed 151 immigration-related laws and 95 resolutions.