Judge rules in favor of immigration law

Published 1:13 pm Thursday, September 29, 2011

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Alabama can move forward with key provisions from its new immigration law, which was challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice and a number of civil rights groups.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn did block the state from barring illegal immigrants from enrolling in public universities and also stopped the state from enforcing two new traffic laws, which would have set up $500 fines for blocking traffic to hire workers on a street.

But the judge decided to let most of the 72-page law take effect.

In her ruling on the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Blackburn refused to block a provision of the state law related to police stops and detentions of people suspected of being in the country illegally. She also declined to block sections requiring schools to check the citizenship status of children and sections that would nullify contracts knowingly entered into with unauthorized aliens.

The judge also declined to block a section of the law making it a felony for “an alien not lawfully present in the United States” to apply for a license plate, driver’s license, business license or other business license.

Governor Robert Bentley said after the ruling that he intends to enforce the “strongest immigration law in our country.”

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange applauded Blackburn’s ruling.

“Today’s rulings are a victory for Alabama,” he said.  “Clearly, the court decided this difficult case on the basis of a thoughtful and thorough analysis.  Illegal immigration is a severe problem facing Alabama and other states across our nation, and it has been addressed by state legislatures in various ways.  Rejecting the unduly restrictive approach taken by other courts around the country, the court today vindicated Alabama’s right to take action to address this issue in the manner its people, through their elected representatives, see fit.”

Sen. Bryan Taylor, a proponent of the law, said the goal is not to keep immigrants out of the state, but to keep illegal immigrants out of the state.

“There is one voice that hasn’t had a seat at the table in this litigation — the voice of millions of aspiring immigrants around the world who are patiently waiting in line and following the proper procedures to come to this country legally,” Taylor said. “It is frequently said that there are some jobs American citizens just won’t do. Perhaps, but that’s no justification for the illegal actions of those who sneak across our borders only to steal job opportunities from other immigrants who respect our laws. This bill doesn’t single out any group for punishment; it promotes legal immigration.”

Blackburn sided with the Department of Justice on just four portions of its challenge. Blackburn ruled the state:

  • Can’t stop an “unauthorized alien” from seeking work as an employee or independent contractor.
  • Can’t prosecute those who assist unauthorized aliens. She blocked a large section that would make it against the law to conceal, harbor, transport or encourage an illegal alien to stay in Alabama. This includes portions of the law referring to landlords.
  • Can’t stop businesses from deducting the wages they pay to unauthorized aliens from their state taxes.
  • Can’t create a new protected class of workers. The new law would have allowed workers who were fired or not hired in favor of unauthorized aliens to sue employers for discrimination.