Groups Challenge Alabama Immigration Bill

By Amelia Pang
Epoch Times Staff
Created: July 10, 2011 Last Updated: July 11, 2011
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Despite the legal blocks to the Arizona, Utah, Indiana, and Georgia immigration laws, state legislators made a come back last month with the harshest immigration law yet—that of Alabama, signed by Gov. Robert Bentley. An official complaint was filed in court on July 8, from the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) The Southern Poverty Law Center, (SPLC) the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), other groups, as well as individuals who felt subject to discrimination.

The groups filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, in Huntsville.

The law is set to take effect on Sept. 14. It raises more moral issues than its predecessors. Bentley in a statement called this the “strongest immigration bill in the country.”

According to NILC, HB 56 will prevent immigrant families from enrolling their children in public schools; prevent several legal immigrants from attending colleges in Alabama; drastically restricts the right for workers to enter into contracts; and interferes with federal power over immigration matters, in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The bill, like Georgia’s HB 87, will punish those who house or transport illegal immigrants.

It requires schools to check if students are in the country legally, and denies school enrollment even to children who are citizens with illegal immigrant parents, which is the provision that makes it the harshest of all the new state immigration laws.

The Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe in 1982 that Texas could not deny school to children of illegal immigrants.

“Requiring schools to verify a student's immigration status forces teachers to become law enforcement officers; which is counterproductive to creating a positive learning environment,” said Sin Yen Ling, senior staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, in a statement from the National Immigration Law Center.

Plaintiff Pamela Long is an associate professor at Auburn University Montgomery. She transports Latino community members to and from doctor’s appointments, court appearances, and other places as a community service.

According to the official compliant, she is afraid of being subjected to criminal prosecution, but also feels that her volunteer work is inseparable from her religious beliefs. She feels that it is wrong to be forced to act against her morals.

Some say this law is a reminiscent of past segregation in Alabama.

“In the nearly 50 years since the historical and worldwide movement for civil and human rights began in our state, real progress has been made. But this law threatens to pull us back to a dark and shameful past,” said Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, in a statement.

“This law revisits the state’s painful racial past and tramples the rights of all Alabama residents. It should never become the law of the land,” said Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in a press release.

Racial profiling or discrimination is unconstitutional.

However, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) feels that the above are merely empty words.

“There is nothing about this law that is reminiscent of segregation laws. No one will be pulled over based on race or ethnicity,” said Ira Mehlman, media director of FAIR in an e-mail to the Epoch Times. “Alabama police will not be proactively looking for people who are in the country illegally.”

Mehlman, wrote, that when conducting a legal stop, officers do not use racial profiling. If an officer “develops reasonable suspicion that the individual he is dealing with is an illegal alien, he must inquire further. This DOES NOTentail racial profiling.”

“This fact was tacitly acknowledged by the Obama administration in its suit against
Arizona's similar law. The suit filed by the Justice Department never alleged racial profiling.”

According to a blog post from Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project of the SPLC, “The identification of FAIR as a bona fide hate group is important. FAIR is the hub of the American nativist movement, the group that more than any other has contributed to the rancid turn the national immigration discussion has taken.”  The SPLC is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.  Its Intelligence Project monitors hate groups and extremism.


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