HICA v. Bentley Settlement

October 29, 2013

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center, (213) 400-7822, [email protected]
Apreill Hartsfield, Southern Poverty Law Center, (334) 782-6624, [email protected]
Isabel Alegria, American Civil Liberties Union, (415) 343-0785 or (646) 438-4146, [email protected]
Larry Gonzalez, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, (202) 466-0879,[email protected]

Civil Rights Coalition Victorious in Suit Against Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law

Agreement Permanently Blocks Most of the Law’s Worst Provisions, Strictly Limits Racial Profiling Provision

MONTGOMERY, ALThe coalition of civil rights groups that challenged Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, HB 56, announced today an agreement that permanently blocks key provisions of the law and significantly limits racial profiling under sections 12 and 18, the “show me your papers” provisions. A similar agreement is being entered in a case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and also in one brought by church leaders. Both agreements are pending final approval by the court.

Under the agreement, the provisions currently temporarily blocked by the courts will be permanently blocked. The state will also pay the coalition attorneys’ fees and costs, as required under federal law. Alabama joins Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, and other states whose anti-immigrant laws have been blocked by the courts.

“Today’s settlement should remind legislators in both Montgomery and Washington that a person’s constitutional rights may not be legislated away,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center. “Supporters of attempts to nationalize racial profiling policies such as Alabama’s HB 56 should be warned: We will fight these efforts at the Capitol, and, if necessary, in the courtroom.”

“We warned the legislature when they were debating HB 56 that if they passed this draconian law, we would sue in court and win,” said Kristi Graunke, senior staff supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “That we have done. Now it is time for our state lawmakers to repeal the remnants of HB 56 and for our congressional delegation to support meaningful immigration reform that will fix our broken system.”

The state also agrees that local police may not hold someone during a traffic stop solely to check the person’s immigration status. This is a significant victory because many departments across the state have interpreted the “show me your papers” provisions to authorize detaining people just to check their immigration status. The coalition will remain vigilant to ensure these abuses do not continue.

“I am thankful that most of the law has been permanently blocked and that tranquility has been restored to the Hispanic community,” said Maria D. Ceja Zamora, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I am glad to see there are still organizations like those that brought the lawsuit to help stop discriminatory laws like HB 56. God bless, and keep up the good work.”

“This court order gives firm assurance that all Alabamians are on equal footing, regardless of their immigration status,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Law enforcement agencies throughout Alabama are on notice — if they detain anyone based on suspicions about immigration status, they will be violating the U.S. Constitution and we will take swift action to protect people’s civil rights against such violations.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), National Immigration Law Center (NILC), American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and other civil rights groups filed the class action suit, HICA v. Bentley,in July 2011. The suit challenged provisions of the law that chilled children’s access to public schools, authorized police to demand “papers” during traffic stops, and criminalized Alabamians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals.

The following key provisions of the law have now been permanently blocked by the courts as a result of this lawsuit:

  • Section 10, which criminalized failing to register one’s immigration status, was initially blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and now has been permanently blocked.
  • Section 28, which required schools to verify the immigration status of newly enrolled K-12 students, was initially blocked by the 11th Circuit and now has been permanently blocked.
  • Section 13, which criminalized giving a ride or renting to someone who is undocumented, was initially blocked by the U.S. District Court in Birmingham and now has been permanently blocked.
  • Section 11(a), which criminalized the solicitation of work by unauthorized immigrants, was initially blocked by the District Court in Birmingham and now has been permanently blocked.
  • Sections 11(f) and (g), which criminalized day laborers’ First Amendment right to solicit work, was initially blocked by the District Court in Birmingham and now have been permanently blocked.
  • Section 27, which infringed on the ability of individuals to contract with someone who was undocumented, was initially blocked by the 11th Circuit and now has been permanently blocked.

“The heart of Alabama’s unconstitutional anti-immigrant law will be blocked permanently with this agreement, an historic victory for everyone living in the state,” said Victor Viramontes, National Senior Counsel, MALDEF. “Other states and localities that consider targeting day laborers, immigrant school children, or immigrant workers should learn from Alabama’s costly mistakes.”

The state agreed to pay $350,000 in legal fees and costs to the coalition lawyers.

“During the long two years since HB 56 was implemented in our state, we have witnessed its harmful effects on our community members and on the reputation of our state,” said Isabel Rubio, executive director for Hispanic Interest Coalition for Alabama (HICA), a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We are thankful that state and local officials have worked with the courts and our legal partners to resolve the destructive issues brought about by this unjust law. We will continue to work toward building a future in which Alabama is known as a place where immigrants are welcomed and recognized for their valuable contributions.”

“We advised the legislature that HB56 would not pass constitutional muster and warned against a state policy that pitted neighbors against one another,” said Shay Farley, legal director for Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Inc., a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Today, we celebrate this victory with our co-plaintiffs and counsel, thankful that the mean-spirited prohibitions and sanctions unlawfully imposed by HB56 are now history and are permanently enjoined.”

More information about the case and settlement can be found atwww.nilc.org/hb56hvb.html.

Attorneys in the case include Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Tanya Broder, Shiu-Ming Cheer, and Melissa S. Keaney of the National Immigration Law Center; Graunke, Sam Brooke, Mary Bauer, Andrew Turner, Michelle LaPointe, Dan Werner, and Naomi Tsu of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Wang, Justin B. Cox, Katherine Desormeau, Kenneth J. Sugarman, Andre Segura, Elora Mukherjee, Omar C. Jadwat, Lee Gelernt and Michael K. T. Tan of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Victor Viramontes, Martha L. Gomez, Nina Perales, and Amy Pedersen of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Foster S. Maer, Ghita Schwarz and Diana S. Sen of LatinoJustice/PRLDEF; Chris Newman and Jessica Karp of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network; Sin Yen Ling of the Asian Law Caucus; Erin E. Oshiro of the Asian American Justice Center; Allison Neal and Freddy Rubio (cooperating counsel) of the ACLU Foundation of Alabama; G. Brian Spears, Ben Bruner, Herman Watson, Jr., Eric J. Artrip and Rebekah Keith McKinney.

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