Strict immigration laws in Alabama ruled unconstitutional

When the state of Alabama passed one of the harshest immigration laws in the country in 2011, known as House Bill 56, immigrants’ rights activists, local businesses and even the federal government were up in arms. But on Tuesday, Nov. 26, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama weighed in on a settlement between the state and the federal Justice Department, accepting a pact that eliminates the law’s most controversial provisions.

History of the law
When it was signed in 2011, Alabama’s immigration law was considered the toughest in the country. It made it a crime for businesses to hire undocumented immigrants, required legal immigrants to carry documentation with them at all times and even had a “show me your papers” provision, which allowed police to detain people during traffic stops for the purpose of checking their citizenship status.

Not surprisingly, those measures, along with several others in the law, were met with anger by people not only in Alabama, but throughout the country. Legal challenges immediately followed, with the most powerful one coming from the Justice Department. Now, after two years of negotiations, a federal district judge has upheld a settlement that was reached by federal authorities and the state that strikes down most of the law.

Settlement details
The settlement bars the enforcement of those three controversial provisions, along with four others, putting Alabama more in line with the rest of the country when it comes to dealing with undocumented immigrants.

The seven provisions were deemed unconstitutional because they conflicted with federal immigration law and undermined federal immigration enforcement efforts. One of the most prominently cited examples of those conflicts was the undue burden that would be put on federal and state agencies charged with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, diverting resources away from policing more dangerous criminal activities.