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NILC Asks Court to Block Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

July 21, 2011

CONTACT: 

Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org
Marion Steinfels, SPLC, (334) 956-8417; marion.steinfels@splcenter.org
Vesna Jaksic, ACLU national, (212) 284-7347 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Nikki Cox, ACLU of Alabama, (334) 265- 2754, ext. 205

MONTGOMERY, Ala.  The National Immigration Law Center and a coalition of other civil rights groups filed a motion today asking a federal judge to block Alabama’s anti-immigrant law from taking effect Sept. 1.

The motion for preliminary injunction, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, follows a federal lawsuit the groups filed earlier this month that charged the law is unconstitutional on multiple grounds. Alabama’s law, which affects myriad aspects of daily life for countless Alabamians, is even more restrictive than Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, which has been blocked by the courts.

“This law flies in the face of the core rights and liberties our Constitution was designed to preserve,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center, “Alabamians, like all Americans, deserve better than to saddle local teachers, law enforcement officers, and business people with the additional responsibility of asking children, customers, and community members for their ‘papers.’ We are hopeful that the court will block this discriminatory and unconstitutional law before it takes effect and causes irreparable harms for countless Alabamians.”

The Alabama law was signed into law in June by Gov. Robert Bentley and is the harshest of the Arizona copycat state laws.

The lawsuit charges that HB 56:

  • Chills children’s access to public schools by requiring school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents.

  • Authorizes police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops and criminalizes Alabamians for ordinary interactions with undocumented individuals.

  • Unconstitutionally interferes with federal authority over immigration matters a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also subjects Alabamians including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to unlawful search and seizure, a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Alabama is one of six states that have enacted a law emulating Arizona’s controversial SB 1070. Federal courts have been unanimous in blocking similar provisions in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. The coalition has also vowed to challenge South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law.

“This law so undermines our core American values of fairness and equality that it is essential this be weighed before the law is allowed to go into effect,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). “When the Speaker of the House, who championed this law and guided it to passage, is acknowledging it has problems, it is clear we have a serious issue.”

“We have already stopped even less oppressive laws in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia,” said Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Not only is Alabama’s law blatantly unconstitutional, it flies in the face of American values by authorizing racial profiling, deterring children from going to school, and criminalizing those who lend a hand to individuals deemed by the state of Alabama to be ‘illegal.’”

“This law is not only anti-immigrant, it is anti-American,” said Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. “It will criminalize Alabamians for everyday interactions with people who are here without documents, such as driving someone to the grocery store or to church, and law enforcement officers will be required to violate the constitutional rights of citizens and non-citizens alike.”

“HB 56 seeks to drive all immigrants out of Alabama,” said Sin Yen Ling, senior staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. “The courts need to send a strong message that it is not permissible under the law.”

“By creating this law, which impacts not just undocumented immigrants but citizens and legal immigrants who might look ‘foreign’ or speak with an accent, Alabama makes all communities less safe,” said Erin Oshiro, senior staff attorney at the Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. “It’s sad that Alabama, the site of many historic civil rights struggles for equality and justice, would enact a law that encourages racial and ethnic profiling. This unconstitutional measure will impact more than 46,000 Asian American immigrants, likely damage Alabama’s reputation and economy and do nothing to fix our broken immigration system. We urge Congress to do its job and fix our immigration laws.”

“Alabama has declared war on immigrants, primarily Latino immigrants. Every Latino in Alabama, regardless of status, is at risk,” said Juan Cartagena of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “By this motion, we hope to save this state from descending into a racial abyss. We are confident that the courts and people of Alabama will stand with us and stop HB 56 from going into effect.”

Attorneys on the case include Mary Bauer, Sam Brooke, Andrew Turner, Michelle Lapointe, Dan Werner, and Naomi Tsu of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Cecillia D. Wang, Katherine Desormeau, Kenneth J. Sugarman, Andre Segura, Elora Mukherjee, Omar C. Jadwat, Lee Gelernt, Michael K. T. Tan of the American Civil Liberties Union and Freddy Rubio of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama; Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Tanya Broder, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Melissa S. Keaney, and Vivek Mittal of the National Immigration Law Center; Sin Yen Ling of the Asian Law Caucus; Erin E. Oshiro of the Asian American Justice Center; Foster Maer, Ghita Schwarz and Diana Sen of Latino Justice; G. Brian Spears, Ben Bruner, Herman Watson, Jr., Eric J. Artrip and Rebekah Keith McKinney.

See the motion for and memorandum in support of preliminary injunction. (PDF)

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