Court Urged to Strike Down Anti-Immigrant Law

May 28, 2013

Adela de la Torre, NILC, 213-674-2832, [email protected]
Dana Vickers Shelley, SPLC, 334-956-8417, [email protected]
Isabel Alegria, ACLU, 415-343-0785, [email protected]
Marjorie Esman, ACLU-LA, 504-522-0617, [email protected]

Immigrant Rights Groups File Amicus Brief Urging Louisiana Supreme Court to Strike Down Anti-Immigrant Law

NEW ORLEANS — Today the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Immigrants’ Rights Project (ACLU-IRP), and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana (ACLU-LA) filed a friend-of-the-court (amicus) brief with the Louisiana Supreme Court in the cases of State v. Bonifacio Ramirez and State v. Marquez, challenging a state law that puts foreign exchange students and construction workers rebuilding the state after hurricanes Katrina, Isaac, and Rita at risk of a felony conviction for doing nothing more than drive a car.

“This law is clearly unconstitutional and places a tremendous burden on citizens and noncitizens alike,” said Meredith Stewart, SPLC staff attorney. “As federal lawmakers are working hard to fix our broken immigration system, such state attempts at regulating immigration are unproductive and are a drain on local law enforcement resources. We urge the Louisiana Supreme Court to find the law unconstitutional.”

“Judging people by how they look is un-American and against the law, and that is exactly what this misguided law requires,” said Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU Foundation of Louisiana executive director. “It imposes criminal penalties on those who can’t provide documents on demand, without any other basis for suspicion. There is a good reason that similar laws in other states have been struck down. The people of Louisiana deserve better than this.”

Laws like Louisiana’s were dealt a blow in 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Arizonav. United States, that key components of a similar, Arizona state law were unconstitutional and preempted by federal immigration law. Louisiana’s law is particularly pernicious because violations of it are classified as felonies.

“Like Arizona’s SB 1070 or Alabama’s HB 56, the law before the Louisiana Supreme Court provides a perfect example of an unworkable — and unconstitutional — state attempt to meddle in strictly federal immigration territory,” said Karen Tumlin, NILC managing attorney. “As the rest of the nation drives toward immigration reform, Louisiana should not be stuck in reverse.”

Louisiana’s law intrudes on the federal government’s power to regulate immigration by dictating the circumstances under which immigrants have to carry documents regarding lawful presence. The law also allows state and local law enforcement agencies and state courts to determine and adjudicate a person’s immigration status. People who are deemed by a state or local law enforcement officer to be unlawfully present are subject to arrest and risk a felony conviction.

A copy of the amicus brief is available at

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