Alabama Immigration Law Yanked Into Place

     (CN) – The 11th Circuit scrapped most of an Alabama law touted as being the nation’s toughest against illegal immigration.
     Most of Alabama’s Hammon-Beason Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, also known as HB 56, undermines federal immigration policies, the Atlanta-based federal appeals court found.
     Critics say that the bill targets Latinos, a group that makes up more than 65 percent of Alabama’s immigration population.
     The Obama administration and private groups had challenged 11 sections of the law, but U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn enjoined just six provisions in a consolidated opinion last year. One of the blocked provisions would have made it a crime to harbor or transport unauthorized immigrants; another would bar unauthorized immigrants from enrolling in or attending public universities; and the third made it a crime for unauthorized immigrants to apply for, solicit, or perform work.
     After Alabama enacted the remaining provisions on Sept. 29, 2011, the 11th Circuit quickly enjoined four more provisions. One of those provisions required schools to check and report on the legal status of their students and their students’ parents. Another made it a crime to be without status in the United States. The third voided contracts with unlawfully present aliens, and the fourth prohibited business deals between illegal aliens and state entities.
     Sections 12 and 18 are the only two challenged provisions have been on the books this year. Both empower law enforcement inquiries into the immigration status of suspects.
     In separate opinions last week, the federal appeals court found that most of the challenged provisions cannot stand. The court still will not enjoin Sections 12 and 18, and it also rejected the challenge to the previously enjoined Section 30, which involved business deals.
     Recent amendments to this provision have clarified that it criminalizes certain “public records transaction[s]” with unlawfully present aliens. While this covers driver’s licenses and related affairs, it does not cover marriage licenses, taxes, housing or most other transactions.
     In its holding on the unconstitutional contract provision, which implicates job and rental applications, the court said: “This attempt to criminalize conduct that Congress has chosen not to criminalize presents an obstacle to accomplishment of federal law.”
     The court also had harsh words for Section 28, the provision involving schools.
     “It is difficult to fathom how admittedly inaccurate data would be used to forecast the needs and plan for impact of populations of undocumented school children, especially given that the population of interest cannot be denied a free public elementary or secondary education in the first place,” Judge Charles Wilson wrote for a three-judge panel.
     “Consequently, section 28 operates to place undocumented children, and their families, in an impossible dilemma: either admit your unlawful status outright or concede it through silence,” Wilson added. “In either scenario, the relevant state database will identify the student as an unlawfully present alien, even though that individual may be a ‘child enjoying an inchoate federal permission to remain.'”
     It also upheld the district court’s ruling that police can check the immigration status of people they stop, as long as there is reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in criminal activity.
     “Just like Arizona, Alabama has ‘understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration,'” Wilson wrote.
     “Although it is a problem that gives rise to unique issues in our nation, we must be mindful that individual states ‘may not pursue policies that undermine federal law,'” he added.

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