Much of Alabama’s Immigration Law Upheld

Via the NYTAlabama Wins in Ruling on Its Immigration Law

The decision, by Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of Federal District Court in Birmingham, makes it much more likely that the fate of the recent flurry of state laws against illegal immigration will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court. It also means that Alabama now has by far the strictest such law of any state.

[…]

The judge did issue a preliminary injunction against several sections of the law, agreeing with the government’s case that they pre-empted federal law. She blocked a broad provision that outlawed the harboring or transporting of illegal immigrants and another that barred illegal immigrants from enrolling in or attending public universities.

[…]

The judge upheld a section that requires state and local law enforcement officials to try to verify a person’s immigration status during routine traffic stops or arrests, if “a reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the country illegally. And she ruled that a section that criminalized the “willful failure” of a person in the country illegally to carry federal immigration papers did not pre-empt federal law.

In both cases, she rejected the reasoning of district and appeals courts that had blocked similar portions of Arizona’s law. Legal experts expected the Justice Department to appeal.

Given the fate of similar laws in the courts to date, the ruling is somewhat surprising.

The basic summation on the issue is as follows:

Peter J. Spiro, a law professor at Temple University, said: “This decision really gives the anti-immigration folks more of a victory than they’ve been getting in other courts. There’s a lot for them to be happy about.”

Still, Professor Spiro added, “This is not the last word on the constitutionality of this statute.”

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. EddieInCA says:

    What’s a “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country illegally?

    I was born and raised here in the USA. I have Dominican parents who are legal residents, and my mother became a US Citizen. Looking at me, you know I’m not “from here” even though I am “from here”. I speak flawless Spanish as well as flawless English due to growing up with a grandmother who didn’t speak English and a mother who insisted on us speaking with absolutely no accent. My sister moved from Arizona to Idaho after one routine stop ended up with her having to prove her citizenship to a copy.

    Next time I go through Arizona and/or Alabama, if I happened to get stopped by a cop, I’m going to speak strictly in Spanish…

    Let the chips fall where they may…

  2. @EddieInCA:

    What’s a “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country illegally?

    Exactly.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    “Reasonable suspicion” is recognized legal standard. Its currently used for many purposes, including for federal government immigration detentions:

    If the immigration officer has a reasonable suspicion, based on specific articulable facts, that the person being questioned is, or is attempting to be, engaged in an offense against the United States or is an alien illegally in the United States, the immigration officer may briefly detain the person for questioning.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The judge upheld a section that requires state and local law enforcement officials to try to verify a person’s immigration status during routine traffic stops or arrests, if “a reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the country illegally.

    I wonder if this judge could prove her citizenship during a traffic stop? I couldn’t.

    @PD Shaw: PD, “reasonable suspicion” is like “probable cause”, totally creatable at the scene, “I pulled you over because you have a broken taillight.” Out comes the billy club…. It is a “recognized legal standard” but then, so is a “fair trial”. Cameron Todd Willingham got a “fair trial”….

  5. waltm says:

    From what the Alabama papers are saying, most of the local police aren’t too enthused about enforcing the law, either. They say they haven’t been trained on how to verify citizenship, then there’s the non trivial cost of holding them until ICE shows up, etc.

  6. @waltm:

    They say they haven’t been trained on how to verify citizenship, then there’s the non trivial cost of holding them until ICE shows up, etc.

    Ah yes: the devil in those details.

    I have noticed that while the zealots are quite pleased by the ruling, the general local news coverage has been been far more negative than I expected: i.e., coverage of the farmers who have now realized that they lost their labor force and the aforementioned law enforcement folks who do not seem too thrilled about the while situation. Granted, it is difficult to know for sure what that actual responses are across the state.

  7. waltm says:

    Would be nice to see some current polling on the issue, thought the results might not be pleasing to either side.

    A possible measure is the loud silence that followed when a state senator announced his intention to seek repeal of the law. There been lots of sniping but no one signing on as a co-sponsor, etc.