Federal District Court Halts Alabama Law's Discriminatory Housing Practice
Today, the federal district court in Montgomery temporarily blocked a section of Alabama anti-immigrant law HB 56 that threatens to push families who cannot prove lawful status out of their homes. A civil rights coalition filed a lawsuit challenging this application of Section 30, which demands ‘papers’ for everyone applying for mobile home tags they need to remain in their homes.
“We are extremely pleased that this court has blocked this ill-conceived provision of this law,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This case really shows the truly terrible ways that HB56 is playing out in the real world. There’s little doubt that this law was intended to drive Latinos out of the state, and that its effects have been to devastate the Latino community in Alabama.”
Several prominent elected officials who supported HB 56, testified at the hearing including the law’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) and Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), Representatives Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) and Kerry Rich (R-Albertville). Also testifying were Alabama Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee, and Elmore County Probate Judge Jimmy Stubbs.
This provision, which criminalizes business transactions between state officials and people who cannot prove citizenship or immigration status, would have left undocumented immigrants in an impossible position: attempt to renew the mobile home tags they need and risk being charged with a felony under HB 56, or refrain from renewing tags before the November 30 tag renewal deadline – thereby losing the right to occupy or move their homes in the eyes of the state.
“Today’s decision recognizes just some of the harms of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law,” said Justin Cox, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The law encourages racial profiling by targeting Latino families and attempting to force them out of their homes and communities. The ruling is a step in the right direction, but we will continue to try to block this draconian law in its entirety.”
The ruling on the injunction motion in the larger civil rights coalition suit challenging HB 56 is currently before the Eleventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. A hearing to appeal a lower court’s decision to allow several provisions of the law to go into effect, including Section 30, has been set for March 1, 2012.
“The federal fair housing act is one of the strongest, most comprehensive civil rights laws on the books,” said Stephen Dane, an attorney with Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC. “Those who try to end run its requirements do so at their risk.”
The decision comes on the heels of a massive rally in Birmingham to repeal all of HB 56. The rally, which was attended by civil rights leaders, community organizers, and several members of the U.S. House of Representatives, marked the launch of a campaign to repeal HB 56.
“Latino Alabamians, 30 percent of whom occupy mobile homes, will have something to truly be grateful for this Thanksgiving,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center. “Today’s ruling is a victory that will prevent people from being pushed out of their homes.”