SPLC Welcomes Department of Justice Challenge to Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law

Alabama’s anti-immigrant law is such an overreach of the state’s power that it came as no surprise that the Obama administration was compelled to file a lawsuit this week accusing Alabama of undermining federal immigration priorities.

It’s perhaps even more telling that on the same day the Department of Justice took action, religious leaders filed another lawsuit challenging HB 56, calling it the “nation’s most merciless anti-immigration legislation.” These religious leaders are concerned it will criminalize them for being good Samaritans when they help undocumented immigrants.

These suits come on the heels of a federal lawsuit filed last month by the Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies. We’ve asked a federal judge to block the law from taking effect as scheduled on September 1, and a decision is expected later this month.

Alabama is one of five states to enact anti-immigrant legislation modeled on Arizona's SB 1070, but Alabama's measure is more draconian than any of the others. It will trample the rights of countless Alabama residents – regardless of their immigration status.

HB 56 requires law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals, makes it a crime to knowingly transport an undocumented immigrant, and requires school officials to determine the immigration status of students and their parents, among other provisions.

Even though the law has yet to take effect, its impact can already be seen in many communities across Alabama. The state’s agriculture commissioner reports that vegetables are rotting in the fields. That’s because Latino farmworkers are already abandoning their jobs.

This law will inflict needless damage across the state. It will subject Alabamians – including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents – to unlawful search and seizure; deter immigrant families from enrolling their children in public schools; unconstitutionally bar many lawfully present immigrants from attending public colleges or universities in Alabama; and drastically restrict the right to enter into contracts.

It is clear that HB 56 is unconstitutional and wildly destructive. We welcome the federal government’s action to prevent this dangerous and costly law from taking effect. And, we encourage the government to consider action in other states that have enacted similarly harsh measures.