Immigration Litigation: Alabama’s stringent new law

June 15, 2011

Immigration Law(Editor’s note: Because of the of the current significance of the topic, we’ll be looking at different cases in immigration law throughout the month of June.)

For the first week’s post on Arizona’s “business death penalty” law, click here.

For the second week’s post on California’s tuition benefits laws, click here.

After the Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s business “death penalty” law last month, it didn’t take much time for other states to come up with their own anti-illegal immigration laws.

The award for the most draconian goes to Alabama, whose law was signed into effect last Thursday.

The law is somewhat of an omnibus immigration one, targeting several areas for markedly increased regulation.

Just like the Arizona law upheld by the Supreme Court, the Alabama law mandates employers use E-Verify – a U.S. government-run system for verifying employment eligibility, and provides strict punishment for employers that hire unlawful aliens.

It appears that this business section was inspired by the similar Arizona law, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was directly modeled after Arizona’s.

As discussed earlier this month, individual states are allowed under federal law to punish businesses hiring unlawful aliens only through “licensing and similar laws.”

Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling, Arizona is able to punish businesses by destroying them so long as any of the various documents creating them are labeled as “licenses.”

Alabama’s law also punishes a business in violation of the law by suspending its “business licenses and permits,” but provides no definition of what exactly those constitute.

I can only guess the law’s authors read the Supreme Court opinion upholding the Arizona law, and thought that licenses now mean anything and everything allowing a business to legally exist (other parts of the law suggest that same conclusion).

While they are probably correct in deducing that from the Court opinion, it’s pretty shoddy bill-writing to not explicitly define a term that is used repeatedly throughout the rest of the text, especially when a business license may be revoked for up to 60 days on a first offense.

Fortunately for the law’s authors, the Supreme Court, if it continues on the same path it’s currently on, will give Alabama wide deference and allow that provision to stand, despite its flaws.

The Alabama law also emulates another Arizona law, but one that has seen successful legal challenges.

The Arizona law, SB 1070, gained nationwide attention last year for its provisions requiring all aliens to carry registration documents proving their legal residency under penalty of law, and allowing state and local police to verify such residency status.

Alabama essentially copied that law and pasted it into its own.

Arizona’s law was blocked by a federal appeals court, and is pending appeal to the Supreme Court.

I can only guess that Alabama is hoping the notoriously conservative 11th Circuit will rule differently than the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit that enjoined enforcement of the Arizona law, or that the Supreme Court will hear Arizona’s appeal and rule in the state’s favor.

Then again, they don’t have much to lose from trying (except for thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees), so why not add it in?

The new law also criminalizes the transportation, harboring, or renting of property to unlawful aliens; compels public schools to confirm students’ legal residency status; and bans unlawful aliens from attending state colleges.

Several groups have already vowed to legally challenge the law, and with the law affecting so many areas, we may see a wide variety of legal issues dealt with in court.

And as we’ve seen already, court rulings have a direct effect over how states will legislate on immigration.