Challenge to Alabama, Georgia Laws

March 1, 2012

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), (213) 400-7822; [email protected]

Civil Rights Groups Ask Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to Block Anti-Immigrant Laws in Georgia and Alabama

Hearings Represent First Eleventh Circuit Legal Test for Draconian Anti-Immigrant Laws

ATLANTA — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit today heard arguments from civil rights attorneys in the legal challenges to Georgia’s and Alabama’s extreme anti-immigrant laws.

A panel of three judges were told that the laws, Georgia’s HB 87 and Alabama’s HB 56, endanger public safety; invite racial profiling of Latinos, Asians, and others who appear foreign; and interfere with federal law.

“The Alabama and Georgia anti-immigrant laws have created a police state where citizens and immigrants alike are subject to inquisitions during traffic stops, and state employees and ordinary people are asked to view their neighbors with suspicion,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The U.S. Constitution does not tolerate such intrusions on our liberty.”

The two cases represent the first civil rights challenges to pernicious anti-immigrant legislation to reach the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The coalition of civil rights group asked the court to leave in place an injunction against major provisions of the Georgia law and to halt implementation of the worst elements of the Alabama law.

“Today we asked the court to strike down both the Alabama and Georgia anti-immigrant laws as unconstitutional,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Both of these laws have trampled on civil rights and encouraged rampant prejudice against immigrants — especially Latinos — without regard to status.”

In Georgia, as in Arizona, Utah, Indiana, and South Carolina, a federal district court blocked several provisions of the state’s anti-immigrant law, including one that would have authorized law enforcement officers to demand “papers” of individuals in a variety of settings, from going into effect. In Alabama, however, major components of HB 56 were allowed to take effect. The calls that subsequently flooded a coalition-created legal hotline painted a picture of immediate widespread discrimination and rights violations.

“Alabama presents a cautionary tale for any state looking to impose its own immigration law upon its inhabitants,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel at the National Immigration Law Center. “Citizens as well as immigrants in Alabama have suffered tremendous rights violations from an unconstitutional law that threatens our most cherished freedoms. The Eleventh Circuit can and should stop this law before it causes further damage to Alabama’s society and economy, and the court should affirm the injunction that prevents Georgians from undergoing the same irreparable violations suffered by their neighbors.”

Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said: “With all the pressing issues facing our state and our country, it is a shame that our legislature thinks that criminalizing acts of charity and neighborliness is a good use of their time. I have faith that this mean-spirited law will not remain on the books in our state.”

Until the appeals court issues a decision, the lower courts’ rulings in both cases will remain in effect.

“Alabama and Georgia are home to burgeoning Asian American communities, and we are deeply concerned that HB 56 and HB 87 will only cause more fear and isolation among these communities,” said Marita Etcubañez, director of programs at the Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice). “Asian Americans have a long history of being targeted with exclusionary policies like these; this is a civil rights crisis and this must not happen in America again.”

Jessica Karp, Staff Attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said, “The anti-immigrant laws in Georgia and Alabama are cruel, misguided, and racist. They are also unconstitutional. As attorneys in the courtroom enumerated the many legal infirmities of these hate laws, the rallies outside gave testament to the devastating effect the laws have had on Georgia and Alabama families and the growing strength of the political opposition.”

For more information about the coalition’s challenge to HB 87, visit

For more information about the coalition’s challenge to HB 56, visit