Court Ruling in Alabama Immigration Case Undermines Fundamental American Values

A federal court today blocked significant elements of Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law – the nation’s most extreme – but also left large parts in place, undermining the most fundamental American values of fairness and equality and devastating thousands across the state, including citizens, lawful immigrants and immigrants without lawful status alike.

Despite the fact that courts in other states have rebuked similar laws, today’s decision reaffirms the state’s ability to authorize police to demand “papers” showing citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops. The court also refused to block a requirement that public schools verify the immigration status of children and their parents, a provision that will have chilling effect on children’s access to public schools.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigration Law Center and the coalition of civil rights groups challenging the law have vowed to appeal today’s decision.

The following are statements from organizations that are part of that coalition.

Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center: “Today is a dark day for Alabama. This decision not only places Alabama on the wrong side of history but also demonstrates that the rights and freedoms so fundamental to our nation and its history can be manipulated by hate and political agendas – at least for a time.”

Linton Joaquin, general counsel of National Immigration Law Center: “The Alabama court has permitted provisions of the law to take effect that require local police, and even school teachers, to become de facto immigration agents. Allowing these portions of the law to take effect will cause irreparable harm to communities of color in Alabama, and we will take every legal action necessary to ensure that these provisions ultimately will be stripped from Alabama’s lawbooks.”

Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project: “While the court has blocked some extremely problematic provisions from going into effect, thereby allowing Alabamians to continue engaging in everyday activities such as seeking employment and giving rides to neighbors, we are deeply concerned by the decision to allow some unconstitutional provisions to stand. Laws that require police to demand ‘papers’ from people who they suspect appear undocumented, encourage racial profiling, threaten public safety and undermine American values have no place in our society.”

Sin Yen Ling, staff attorney with Asian Law Caucus: "Alabama's decision today condones racial profiling, and harms children by permitting the inquiry of their immigration status upon school enrollment. The Court today has strayed from protecting the civil rights of all Alabamians.”

Foster Maer of LatinoJustice PRLDEF: “Given the breadth of this decision, it promises to open a new and ugly chapter on race relations in the United States. Here we have a court saying that it’s okay for a state to discriminate against Latinos and other immigrants in such key areas as the right to get an education, to be free from unreasonable searches, to enforce contracts, to access the government. Latinos across the country understand what this decision means and are going to be horrified by it.”

Victor Viramontes of Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund: “Although the Court did block provisions discriminating against day laborers and immigrant college students, the people of Alabama will be subjected to racial profiling, to requests to show their papers, and to immigration inquiries in elementary schools. We will appeal to prevent these injustices.”

Erin Oshiro, senior staff attorney at the Asian American Justice Center: “Today’s decision marks a setback for civil rights in Alabama. We are deeply concerned that Alabama’s 46,000 Asian Americans, which includes U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, as well as others, will now be subject to racial profiling and harassment.”

Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network: “One bright spot in today's largely outrageous decision was the judge's finding that the anti-day labor provisions of HB 56 are likely unconstitutional. This finding represents the second legal victory in as many weeks for day laborers who work under difficult circumstances each day to feed their families, strengthen their communities, and – as this decision shows – defend basic rights for us all. The court's decision to enjoin the anti-solicitation provisions of HB 56 is a victory for all who enjoy the freedom of speech guaranteed by the United States Constitution. It serves as a reminder that yesterday’s ‘criminals’ sometimes emerge as today's civil rights champions. We all owe a debt of gratitude to day laborers – and to all immigrants in Alabama – who are now in a historic fight for the rights of us all.”