Alabama Mobile Home Case
As part of a harsh anti-immigrant law, the Alabama Department of Revenue required people who owned or maintained mobile homes in the state to prove their lawful immigration status before they could pay annual fees for an identification decal required for all mobile homes under state law. The Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the immigration check as a violation of the Fair Housing Act that threatened to leave families across the state homeless.
The Department of Revenue’s policy stemmed from a provision of Alabama’s HB 56 that criminalized “business transactions” with the state by undocumented immigrants.
By adopting this policy, local officials had to determine the immigration status of every person paying these fees – even though these officials had not been trained for this task and could potentially deny decals to individuals with lawful status.
Failure to pay the mobile home fees resulted in fines and was considered a criminal misdemeanor. Individuals who attempted to renew their decals but were unable to prove their immigration status risked being charged with a felony because they would be considered an undocumented immigrant attempting to engage in a “business transaction” with the state.
This practice threatened immigrant families – regardless of their immigration status – with eviction. Mobile home parks often required homeowners to have a current decal or face eviction from the park. Mobile home owners unable to obtain a decal could not move the home to a new location because it was illegal to transport a mobile home on public roads without a moving permit, which could only be obtained through a “business transaction” with the state where immigration status would be checked.
The lawsuit charged that this provision of the state’s anti-immigrant law was unconstitutional, violated the Fair Housing Act and usurped the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration law.