SPLC: Supreme Court’s rejection of Alabama appeal further proof states cannot create immigration laws

The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Alabama’s appeal of a court decision that blocked part of its anti-immigrant law is further proof that immigration enforcement is not a duty of the states, but the federal government which must pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The high court rejected the appeal today. The state wanted the court to review the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to block a provision of the law that criminalized acts of kindness such as providing a ride or shelter to someone unable to prove immigration status. The Supreme Court’s decision came in a case the U.S. Department of Justice brought against the anti-immigrant law, also known as HB 56.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case was expected,” said Sam Brooke, staff attorney for the SPLC, which challenged the law with a separate lawsuit. “The high court invalidated most of Arizona’s immigration law last year, stating unequivocally that immigration is a federal issue and states may not create their own enforcement schemes. That is why the lower courts already blocked Alabama’s law.”

Brooke also noted that today’s decision sends an important message to Congress.

“We need meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform from Washington, D.C.,” he said.  “Hopefully, the lessons we have all learned from HB 56 will motivate Congress to act quickly to address this pressing issue.” 

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a similar anti-immigrant law, Arizona’s SB 1070, which served as a model for Alabama’s law. The court ruled that much of the Arizona law was unconstitutional because it interfered with federal authority over immigration. Alabama contended its “harboring and transporting” provision did not interfere with federal authority.

The courts have blocked most of Alabama’s law, including provisions that required K-12 schools to verify the immigration status of newly enrolled immigrants, criminalized failing to register one’s immigration status, invalidated contracts with undocumented individuals and criminalized day laborers’ First Amendment right to solicit work.

Co-counsel on the SPLC case challenging Alabama’s anti-immigrant law include the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, the National Immigration Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus, the Asian American Justice Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network and LatinoJustice-PRLDEF.