Alabama Immigration Law Upheld in Federal Court

October 6, 2011

…but is it constitutional?

According to an article in the New York Times (2011 WLNR 13207962), on September 28, Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the Northern District of Alabama upheld significant portions of a controversial immigration law passed by the Alabama legislature this year.  Although Alabama is not the only state to pass such legislation in the last few years—Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and most notably Arizona have shared the limelight as states where harsh immigration laws have been passed—its law has been described as the most extreme so far. See AL LEGIS 2011-535.

Among the more objectionable aspects of Alabama’s law are its requirements that schools and businesses partake in the policing of illegal immigrants.  For example, public schools are required to determine the immigration status of their students as well as that of their families and report this information to the state.  And businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants now will operate under the threat of losing their licenses.  The law also makes it a crime to help an illegal immigrant—which puts churches and other charitable institutions at risk. 

The law has many supporters, to be sure, but its opponents have vociferously challenged the constitutionality of the law’s provisions.  The Justice Department filed a suit to enjoin enforcement of the law (11-cv-02746).  The American Civil Liberties Union sued Alabama declaring the new immigration law unconstitutional (11-cv-02484).  Because of the law’s effect on Good Samaritans, a group of four religious leaders, including an Episcopal bishop, a Methodist bishop and a Roman Catholic archbishop and bishop, has filed yet another suit to block the law (11-cv-2736).

The judge’s ruling is by no means the final say on this issue.  Many of the civil rights groups and other plaintiffs are already preparing their appeals of this decision.  What have other courts been saying on this issue?  I did this search in ALLFEDS on Westlaw and got 1390 results:

  SY,DI,PR,HG,BG(“BEASON-HAMMON ALABAMA TAXPAYER AND CITIZEN PROTECTION ACT” IMMIGRAT! & PRE-EMPT! CONSTITUTIONAL!) & da(last 3 years)

As you can imagine, this is quite a hot topic in the news as well.  Try the following search in Major Newspapers (NPMJ):

IMMIGRAT! /5 LAW RULE STATUTE REGULATION /P CONSTITUTIONAL! PRE-EMPT!

To see a list of filings related to this issue in Alabama courts, do the following search in AL-FILING-ALL:

(immigrat! & constitutional! pre-empt! & da(last 2 years) )

WestlawNext also brings up all of these same materials—just select Alabama state and federal as your jurisdiction (You can do the same in News) and type the following:

constitutionality of Alabama immigration law

Change the “sort by” box from relevancy to date and the newest decisions will appear first.