Hispanic National Bar Association Applauds Department of Justice Challenge of Alabama H.B. 56

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

August 4, 2011

Hispanic National Bar Association Applauds Department of Justice Challenge of Alabama H.B. 56

Washington, D.C. – The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) commends the United States Department of Justice for its decision to file a preliminary injunction against the State of Alabama’s H.B. 56. The law, which creates a state-enforced immigration status verification system that seeks to criminalize immigrants in all areas of society from housing to school to employment, is a flagrant violation of federal immigration law. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has found the law to be unconstitutional under preemption principles and filed a lawsuit against Alabama.

The Department of Justice’s action against Alabama’s H.B. 56 is consistent with its case against Arizona’s notorious S.B. 1070. Similar in many respects to S.B. 1070, H.B. 56 mandates that state law enforcement verify the immigration status of any individual seeking public benefits, healthcare, employment, education, transportation, or housing. These laws not only conflict with federal immigration law, but also undermine and interfere with the exclusive power of the federal government to enforce that law, thereby violating the U.S. Constitution.

Among numerous concerns with laws like Alabama H.B. 56 and Arizona S.B. 1070, both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have noted that these policies put heavy burdens on local law enforcement and federal agencies and divert necessary resources from real threats. Additionally, H.B. 56 blatantly goes against federal education policy. One of H.B. 56’s provisions mandates an immigration status verification of all students and their parents before they can be enrolled in public schools, which could discourage families from enrolling their children at all. Accordingly, the Department of Education has also been involved in the Department of Justice’s decision to file suit against Alabama.

“H.B. 56 is nothing more than an egregious attempt to intimidate and criminalize immigrants, and violates constitutional rights as well as federal law,” said Diana Sen, HNBA President. “The Department of Justice has rightfully taken issue with the many ways in which this law is problematic, not least of which is the fact that a state-by-state patchwork of laws is not the solution to our current flawed immigration system. HNBA applauds the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder for their commitment to investigate and take action against unconstitutional proposals such as this, and we reiterate our support for comprehensive, effective federal immigration reform.”