by Jeremy Leaming
Portions of one of the nation’s harshest immigration laws, Alabama’s HB 56, were invalidated today by a federal appeals court, Brian Lyman reports for the Montgomery Advertiser.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Lyman writes, blocked provisions of the anti-immigrant law that would void contracts involving undocumented workers and bar government officials from “doing business” with undocumented immigrants.
The Eleventh Circuit had been urged by the Alabama officials to wait on issuing any decision on the law until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of Arizona’s SB 1070, another harsh immigration law.
The U.S. Department of Justice, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center lodged the lawsuit against Alabama, lambasted nationally for crafting an an over-the-top, even cruel law in a state where less than 4 percent of the population is foreign-born. The lawsuit argued, in part, that Alabama’s law undermines the federal government’s power to implement immigration policy.
Not long after the law’s enactment, The New York Times editorial board said the “drafters of Alabama’s harsh immigration law wanted to turn their state into the country’s most hostile territory for illegal immigrants. They are succeeding, as many of Alabama’s most vulnerable residents can attest.”
The sweeping law encouraged state officials, working at public schools, hospitals and other state institutions to report on people they suspect of being undocumented residents.
Late last month, the SPLC issued a report detailing harassment and discrimination of Latinos in the state following enactment of HB 56, which helped create a “xenophobic climate.” The report details people being “cheated out of wages, being denied medical treatment and facing a growing hostility,” since the law’s passage.
SPLC Legal Director Mary Bauer, author of the report, said, “The people in this report are the mothers, fathers, and children living under the law that has given a nod and a wink to the worst prejudices harbored by some residents. If lawmakers are unwilling to repeal HB 56 – knowing this is the type of misery they have created – we can only assume they intended to inflict cruelty all along.”
In October after a federal judge in Alabama upheld most of the law’s provisions many Latinos started fleeing the state. Those still there, according to the SPLC’s report, have suffered outrageous acts of discrimination and harassment.
Bauer lauded today’s action by the Eleventh Circuit saying, “I think it means many of the harms that are happening in the real world will come to an end while we wait for a decision from the court.”
According to the Advertiser, the Ala. Attorney General, which is defending what The New York Time also dubbed “the country’s cruelest, most unforgiving immigration law,” would comment soon on the Eleventh Circuit decision.
Lower courts, as noted in this ACSblog post, have also continued to rule against Arizona’s over-the-top anti-immigrant law, even as the Supreme Court prepares to consider its constitutionality this spring.
During a March ACS immigration symposium in Atlanta, former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama U.W. Clemon called the state efforts to pass anti-immigrant laws “another manifestation of the hatred and disdain on the part of white republican state legislators for the people who don’t look or sound like them.”