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Rights groups seek to bar Alabama immigration law

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA) [advocacy websites] and several other civil rights groups jointly filed a motion for preliminary injunction [text, PDF] on Thursday in an effort to prevent an Alabama immigration law from taking effect on September 1. The motion, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama [official website], claims the controversial Alabama law [HB 56 text] that expands restrictions on undocumented immigrants is unconstitutional. The law contains measures comparable to those passed in Arizona [JURIST report] last year including authorizing police officers to detain an individual on "reasonable suspicion" the individual is in the country illegally, and requirements that businesses use the federal E-Verify system [official website] to determine whether potential employees are legal residents. The rights groups argue that they are entitled to a preliminary injunction because of their substantial likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable injury to plaintiffs and because the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. The rights groups filed [JURIST report] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] earlier this month seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, arguing that HB 56 is preempted by federal law and that, among other constitutional violations, it violates the Fourth Amendment by subjecting citizens and non-citizens with permission to be in the US to unreasonable searches and seizures.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [official website] signed HB 56 into law last month, just one week after it was passed by the legislature [JURIST reports]. In addition to authorizing detention of individuals on reasonable suspicion they are illegal immigrants, the law provides harsh restrictions on employment for illegal immigrants. Businesses cited multiple times for hiring undocumented workers could lose their business licenses. Furthermore, undocumented immigrants are prohibited from applying for a job, and anyone transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants will be punished by a fine or jail time. In May, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled [JURIST report] in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [Cornell LII backgrounder] that an Arizona employment law that imposes penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants is not preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) [text]. The ruling opens the door for states to enact similar restraints on immigration. Similar laws have been passed in Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah [JURIST reports]. Federal courts have enjoined laws in Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, Oklahoma and Utah [JURIST reports].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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