Challenge to Alabama’s HB 56: HICA v. Bentley

March 8, 2012

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), (213) 674-2832; [email protected]

Federal Appeals Court Blocks Parts of Alabama’s Discriminatory Anti-Immigrant Law

Court Issues Order Temporarily Enjoining Business Transaction and Contract Provisions of HB 56

ATLANTA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit today blocked two key sections of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law pending a final ruling on the appeal.

The ruling comes several days after a civil rights coalition and the U.S. Department of Justice presented arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, arguing the Alabama anti-immigrant law should be blocked. During the hearing in Atlanta, civil rights attorneys told a panel of three judges that the law fundamentally conflicts with federal law and systematically violates the rights of U.S. citizens and immigrants with and without lawful status. The coalition of civil rights groups that sued against the law said today it was pleased the court considered its renewed pleas to block provisions pending the appeal based on harms the law is inflicting.

Parts of the Alabama law took effect in September, causing a great humanitarian and economic crisis. A ruling issued today by the three-judge panel blocks Sections 27 and 30 of the law, which restricted business transactions with the state government, and made contracts with private parties unenforceable if one party had knowledge that a party was undocumented, negatively impacting many portions of people’s everyday lives.

Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said: “Today’s order brings immediate relief to countless Alabamians whose fundamental rights have been trampled by this anti-immigrant law. These provisions were designed to make it impossible for ordinary families to live in Alabama by stripping them of their ability to engage in contracts – like rental agreements or car leases – and to do any business with the state government. They are unconstitutional and the court rightly blocked them pending a final ruling on the appeal.”

“Today’s ruling strikes at the heart of this racist law and is yet another blow for the effort to pass similar laws across the country,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the SPLC. “This law is clearly unconstitutional and is causing harm every day for citizens and non-citizens alike. We hope that the Alabama legislature will be guided by this latest loss in the courts and look to other state legislatures that are abandoning similar efforts and finally repeal this law.”

Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for NILC, said: “Today’s decision decision is a huge victory for all Alabamians, who will no longer be subjected to onerous ‘show me your papers’ requirements when attempting to engage in basic, daily transactions, such as getting water service. The decision should also serve as a warning to Mississippi or other states attempting to copy this unlawful provision.”

The civil rights organizations involved in HICA v. Bentley, the class-action challenge to Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, include the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus, the Asian American Justice Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network, and LatinoJustice-PRLDEF.

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