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U.S. sues over Alabama immigration law

The Justice Department challenges the strict measure, saying the Constitution prohibits states from creating a 'patchwork' of immigration policies.

August 02, 2011|By Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times
  • Sen. Scott Beason, left, listens as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks before signing into law what critics and supporters are calling the strongest bill in the nation cracking down on illegal immigration. The Justice Department filed a challenge to Alabama's tough anti-illegal-immigration law Monday.
Sen. Scott Beason, left, listens as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks… (Mickey Welsh / AP Photo )

Reporting from Atlanta — The Justice Department filed a challenge to Alabama's tough anti-illegal-immigration law Monday, arguing that the Constitution prohibits state and local governments from creating a national "patchwork" of immigration policies.

The suit, filed in Alabama's Northern District, marks the second time the Obama administration has sought to block a state immigration reform law. Last year, the Justice Department filed a similar challenge to Arizona's controversial SB 1070. A federal judge decided to temporarily block key parts of that law, including a provision that would have required police to determine suspects' immigration status.

A number of states, including Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and Indiana, have embraced similar laws. Alabama's law, signed in June by Gov. Robert J. Bentley, is by far the strictest.

The law requires police to attempt to determine the residency status of suspected illegal immigrants. It also it makes it a crime for immigrants to work or solicit work, and prohibits landlords from renting to them. Among other things, it would prevent illegals from receiving state or local public benefits and bar them from enrolling in public colleges.

The federal complaint argues that the law, which is set to take effect Sept. 1, "exceeds a state's role with respect to aliens, interferes with the federal government's balanced administration of the immigration laws, and critically undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives."

Moreover, the law, known as HB 56, "would result in the harassment and incarceration of lawful resident aliens — and even U.S. citizens who would not have readily available documentation to demonstrate their citizenship," the government argued.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed their challenge in Alabama last month.

"We applaud the U.S. government for coming in and filing this new lawsuit," said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. "We are confident that this law is going to be enjoined just as the Arizona law was enjoined."

Bentley, a Republican, said in a statement that he would "fight at every turn" to ensure Alabama had a strong immigration law.

richard.fausset@latimes.com

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