The Supreme Court rejected Alabama’s appeal to keep some of the state’s immigration laws intact, including one that says that those harboring immigrants who are not U.S. citizens in their homes could face jail time. By an 8-1 vote, the justices decided that enforcing the immigration laws is the job of the federal government rather than the state. Although nine states sided with Alabama’s appeal, the court did not say why it rejected the request.
The court’s decision allowed other parts of the Alabama law, including one that permitted police to check people’s immigration documents when stopped for other purposes. A similar law in Arizona was allowed by the court in 2012. Yet the courts also blocked other points of the law in Alabama, such as a law that would have made it a criminal penalty for immigrants to look for work. It also denied state and local officials’ abilities to check the immigration statuses of public school students or detain suspected immigrants without bond.
“The national government has significant power to regulate immigration,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority of the Supreme Court vote. “The sound exercise of national power over immigration depends on the nation’s meeting its responsibility to base its laws on a political will informed by searching, thoughtful, rational civic discourse.”
The Alabama law, called HB56, was enacted in 2011 and is considered one of the toughest state immigration statutes in the nation, according to Reuters. The Constitution also makes it illegal to encourage people to either enter or stay in the country in violation of federal immigration laws. Arizona and eight other states have similar ordinances. Laws in Georgia and South Carolina are also currently being challenged in court.