Appeals Court Blocks Parts of Alabama Immigration Law

A federal appeals court blocked certain provisions of Alabama’s strict immigration law, HB 56, on October 14.

The law, signed by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in June, was challenged in August by the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ wrote, “Alabama’s law is designed to affect virtually every aspect of an unauthorized immigrant’s daily life, from employment to housing to transportation to entering into and enforcing contracts to going to school.”

Judge Sharon Blackburn ruled on September 28 that most provisions of the law could go into effect, prompting a DOJ appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. That court has temporarily blocked two of the law’s most controversial measures: a requirement that schools ascertain the citizenship status of all enrolling students and a stipulation requiring immigrants to carry an alien registration card or other documentation of legal residency at all times.

The Atlanta court did not block other hot-button elements of the law, such as a provision allowing police officers to determine the immigration status of individuals during routine traffic stops.

Since the law took effect in September, schools around the state have reported a significant number of Hispanic students have been absent or withdrawn, and Alabama workers held a sick-out day of protest that shuttered businesses around the state, including a number of poultry processing plants.

States have introduced a record number of immigration-related bills in 2011, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In addition to Alabama, states such as South Carolina and Indiana have pushed for strict immigration laws, while other states have passed more immigrant-friendly measures. Governor Jerry Brown of California recently signed that state’s Dream Act, allowing certain undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition.