Federal Judge Upholds Extreme Anti-Immigrant Alabama Law

Contact: Zuraya Tapia-Hadley
E-mail: ztapia@hnba.com
Phone: (202) 223-4777

September 29, 2011

Federal Judge Upholds Extreme Anti-Immigrant Alabama Law 

Washington, D.C. – The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) is disappointed by a federal court decision made yesterday to uphold most of an extreme and unconstitutional anti-immigrant law in the state of Alabama, H.B. 56. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ruled to block some parts of the law, including the provision making it illegal for undocumented immigrants to work, but rejected the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s challenge against the even more egregious provisions, among them a portion that requires Alabama public schools to verify students’ immigration status and report those findings to the state, the requirement for local police to demand documentation from individuals based on “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented, and the unconstitutional precept that authorities can then hold the people they question for being undocumented without bond.

As the HNBA previously stated, H.B. 56’s provision mandating immigration verification for K-12 students is a blatant attempt to intimidate undocumented families and discourage them from enrolling their children in schools. This attempt to violate equal protection and the Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court Decision, which granted undocumented children the right to a free public education regardless of their immigration status, is just one of many ways in which H.B. 56 is unconstitutional.

An equally alarming section of H.B. 56 upheld in this decision is the discriminatory provision that allows police to demand immigration papers from any individual they suspect to be undocumented. There is no probable cause that can demonstrate a documented status, thus leading to racial profiling and what will result in unlawful apprehension and detention not only of undocumented residents, but of U.S. citizens and legal residents as well. As the DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have noted, this provision places the burden of an unfunded mandate on local agencies, and more dangerously has also led and will lead to racial profiling. Moreover, this precept is in direct contravention of recently released guidelines by DHS directing immigration enforcement efforts to be focused first on organized crime and actual threats to national security. With limited enforcement resources, far from making Alabama safer, this law fails to prioritize real threats to security by focusing on workers and families, in contradiction of DHS directives.

“H.B. 56 is an atrocious attempt to criminalize immigrants in a way that violates not only federal law and constitutional rights, but also the fundamental values upon which our great nation was founded,said Benny Agosto, Jr., HNBA National President. “As the national voice of the Hispanic legal community, we are beyond dismayed that such biased and largely illegal legislation was upheld by this court. It is our hope that sound public policy, sound economic policy, traditional American values, and the Constitution will ultimately result in an outcome that does not promote further segregation and conflict among different ethnic groups, which will allow people to not live in fear and encourage all Alabamians to strive together for the greater human, economic, and professional development of the state. We strongly support the U.S. Department of Justice in its challenge of Alabama’s law and reiterate the need for comprehensive, federal immigration reform.”

The HNBA is an incorporated, not-for-profit, national membership organization that represents the interests of the more than 100,000 attorneys, judges, law professors, legal professionals, and law students of Hispanic descent in the United States, and its territories. For more information about the HNBA, please visit www.hnba.com.