Spurred by public anger over illegal immigration and the example set by Arizona, states passed more than 100 immigration-related measures during the first half of this year. President Obama condemned that appalling trend, but the administration otherwise took only modest actions to thwart it. It filed suit in Arizona, for instance, but has relied on immigrant and civil rights groups to challenge copycat measures in other states.
Then, this month, the Department of Justice sued to block Alabama from moving ahead with a new law that effectively turns police and civilians into immigration agents. Under the law, police would be required to arrest and jail anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally or face criminal liability and lawsuits. Landlords would be required to verify the immigration status of tenants or risk criminal charges. And public school officials would be forced to check students' immigration status and report it to district officials.
Understandably, the measure has galvanized fierce opposition. Immigrant advocates, civil rights and faith-based groups, and educators have denounced the law, vowing to fight it in and out of court.
State officials contend that the measure doesn't conflict with federal law because it would help immigration officials identify those in the country illegally. That's specious: Alabama can't deport those its law would target. Ultimately, federal agents and an already overburdened immigration court system would be left to contend with the additional cases.