On September 28th, United States District Court Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn upheld the most controversial sections of the immigration law enacted in Alabama earlier this year in a lawsuit brought by the US Department of Justice challenging the law on preemption grounds. Alabama HB56, was signed into law in June after Republicans won a supermajority in the State Legislature in the 2010 mid-term elections. It was challenged by the Obama administration as well as by civil rights groups. Both have vowed to appeal the ruling as it contradicts prior rulings by other federal courts that have considered similar laws in other states.

Judge Blackburn's ruling upholds provisions requiring police officers to request immigration documentation from anyone they suspect to be undocumented, and that all Alabama public schools from Grades K to 12 receive confirmation of immigration status from parents of all children attending.  The ruling also upholds provisions of the law that allow contracts to become void if entered into with an undocumented immigrant, and that criminalize the act of an undocumented immigrant’s application for a driver’s license or a license plate.  The law also includes criminal penalties for individuals who give rides to undocumented immigrants, and enables private citizens to report law enforcement officers and offices which do not enforce the law properly

The Judge’s ruling was more lenient regarding business owners and employers, as sections were blocked that penalize individuals who hire undocumented immigrants or encourage them to stay in-state to work.  The judge issued a preliminary injunction against several sections of the law, agreeing with the government’s case that they may be pre-empted federal law. She blocked a broad provision that outlawed the harboring or transporting of undocumented immigrants and another that barred undocumented immigrants from enrolling in or attending public universities.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, applauded the ruling, stating that the jurisdiction now has “the strongest immigration law in the country.”  Advocates on behalf of immigrants, such as America’s Voice Education Fund, are on the other hand indignant about the ruling, stating that it is the federal government’s job to determine immigration law and policy, and that the states only make matters worse by enforcing rules and laws that play to American’s fears rather than their strengths and best interests between one another.

We will have more in depth information on the E-Verify and business-related provisions of the Alabama law in future blog posts.