Alabama Immigration Law
Written by Faith Anderson on August 25, 2011
New Law May Violate Civil Rights
Opponents and advocates of the new immigration law in Alabama squared off in federal court Wednesday, although the daylong hearing resulted in no final ruling. While state officials argue that the law will help Alabama and won’t violate civil rights, those against the law counter that portions of the law are unconstitutional. According to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, the law would not prevent undocumented immigrants from having access to public-school education. Strange also stressed that the law was not an “anti-immigrant” measure, and that the state welcomes visitors. Earlier this month, Strange, the state’s governor, and a district attorney were sued by leaders from the Episcopal, Methodist and Catholic churches over the law. According to one attorney, representatives of the church did not want to become immigration agents, arguing that the law would make church officials targets for “ministering to illegal immigrants.” An attorney for the Justice Department argued that the federal government, not individual states, should be responsible for controlling immigration enforcement, claiming that various provisions of the law undermine immigration enforcement priorities and objectives of the federal government.
Alabama Immigration Law May be Discriminatory
The new Alabama immigration law was signed in June by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who reportedly “campaigned on the need for a strong immigration bill.” As Republican Alabama state representative John Merrill said in June, the legislation is “good for Alabama” because it will reduce illegal immigration to the state and will “provide equal opportunities for all people who want to come to Alabama legally.” The Mexican government, on the other hand, welcomed the Justice Department’s opposition of the law. According to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, “The Government of Mexico acknowledges the sovereign right of all countries to enact laws and implement public policies in their own territory. At the same time, it reiterates its unwavering commitment to protect, by all available means, the rights and dignity of Mexicans abroad, especially in the case of laws that could lead to the violation of the civil and human rights of our nationals.”
New Immigration Laws Challenged in other States
The Justice Department claims that the law is designed to affect “virtually every aspect of an unauthorized immigrant’s life, from employment to housing to transportation to entering into and enforcing contracts to going to school.” It says the law may also result in the harassment and detention of foreign visitors, legal immigrants and U.S. citizens who may not be able to readily prove their lawful status. Although arguments against the new immigration law have been heard in federal court, state senator Scott Beason, a co-sponsor of the law, said he was please with how the hearing went Wednesday, adding that he was confident the law would be upheld. Other anti-illegal immigration measures have been passed in recent months in states like Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Utah and South Carolina. Parts of those laws have been suspended in four states, pending the resolution of lawsuits.