Court’s Ruling Undermines American Values

September 28, 2011

Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; [email protected]
Marion Steinfels, SPLC, (334) 956-8417; [email protected]
Vesna Jaksic, ACLU national, (212) 284-7347 or 549-2666; [email protected]
Olivia Turner, ACLU, Alabama, (334) 265-2754 ext. 204; [email protected]
Laura Rodriguez, MALDEF, (310) 956-2425; [email protected]
Sin Yen Ling, Asian Law Caucus, (415) 896-1701; [email protected]
Madeline Friedman, LatinoJustice PRLDEF: 212-739-7581, 201-600-1397 or [email protected]

Decision Out-of-Step with Previous Rebukes to State Anti-Immigrant Laws

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The federal court’s ruling today, in HICA et al. v Robert Bentley, et al., blocked significant elements of the nation’s most extreme anti-immigrant law but also left large parts in place, undermining the most fundamental American values of fairness and equality and devastating thousands across the state including citizens, lawful immigrants, and immigrants without lawful status alike.

Despite the fact that courts in other states have rebuked similar laws, today’s decision reaffirms the state’s ability to authorize police to demand “papers” showing citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops. The court also refused to block the chilling affect the law will have on children’s access to public schools by requiring school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents.

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the coalition of civil rights groups challenging the law have vowed to appeal today’s decision.

“The Alabama court has permitted provisions of the law to take effect that require local police, and even school teachers, to become de facto immigration agents,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of NILC. “Allowing these portions of the law to take effect will cause irreparable harm to communities of color in Alabama, and we will take every legal action necessary to ensure that these provisions ultimately will be stripped from Alabama’s lawbooks.”

“Today is a dark day for Alabama,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This decision not only places Alabama on the wrong side of history but also demonstrates that the rights and freedoms so fundamental to our nation and its history can be manipulated by hate and political agendas – at least for a time.”

“While the court has blocked some extremely problematic provisions from going into effect, thereby allowing Alabamians to continue engaging in everyday activities such as seeking employment and giving rides to neighbors, we are deeply concerned by the decision to allow some unconstitutional provisions to stand, “ said Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Laws that require police to demand ‘papers’ from people who they suspect appear undocumented, encourage racial profiling, threaten public safety and undermine American values have no place in our society.”

“Alabama’s decision today condones racial profiling, and harms children by permitting the inquiry of their immigration status upon school enrollment,” said Sin Yen Ling, staff attorney with Asian Law Caucus. “The Court today has strayed from protecting the civil rights of all Alabamians.”

“Given the breadth of this decision, it promises to open a new and ugly chapter on race relations in the United States,” said Foster Maer of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Here we have a court saying that it’s okay for a State to discriminate against Latinos and other immigrants in such key areas as the right to get an education, to be free from unreasonable searches, to enforce contracts, to access the government. Latinos across the country understand what this decision means and are going to be horrified by it.”

“Although the Court did block provisions discriminating against day laborers and immigrant college students, the people of Alabama will be subjected to racial profiling, to requests to show their papers, and to immigration inquiries in elementary schools. We will appeal to prevent these injustices,” said Victor Viramontes of Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“Today’s decision marks a setback for civil rights in Alabama,” said Erin Oshiro, senior staff attorney at the Asian American Justice Center. “We are deeply concerned that Alabama’s 46,000 Asian Americans, which includes U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, as well as others will now be subject to racial profiling and harassment.”

“One bright spot in today’s largely outrageous decision was the judge’s finding that the anti-day labor provisions of HB 56 are likely unconstitutional. This finding represents the second legal victory in as many weeks for day laborers who work under difficult circumstances each day to feed their families, strengthen their communities, and–as this decision shows–defend basic rights for us all,” said Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “The court’s decision to enjoin the anti-solicitation provisions of HB 56 is a victory for all who enjoy the freedom of speech guaranteed by the United States Constitution. It serves as a reminder that yesterdays “criminals” sometimes emerge as today’s civil rights champions. We all owe a debt of gratitude to day laborers- and to all immigrants in Alabama- who are now in a historic fight for the rights of us all.”

The civil rights coalition participating in this challenge 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 Allison Neal and Freddy Rubio of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama; Linton Joaquin, Karen Tumlin, Tanya Broder, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Melissa S. Keaney of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC); 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; Nina Perales, Victor Viramontes, Martha Gomez, and Amy Pedersen of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF); Chris Newman and Jessica Karp of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, G. Brian Spears, Ben Bruner, Herman Watson, Jr., Eric Artrip and Rebekah Keith McKinney.

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