On June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down three of the four challenged provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, commonly known as S.B. 1070, on the basis that those provisions were preempted by federal law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (AL, GA, FL) is now in a position to rule on a similar Alabama law, known as H.B. 56, which contains provisions that would significantly impact school districts in that state.
Though the Eleventh Circuit heard oral arguments from Alabama and the United States in March 2012, Legal Clips reported that the appellate court delayed ruling on the case until the Supreme Court had determined the constitutionality of Arizona’s law. The same day the Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Arizona case, the Eleventh Circuit issued an order permitting the parties in the Alabama case to submit supplemental briefs by no later than July 6, 2012, addressing how the Arizona ruling would affect the issues raised in the Alabama case.
Section 28 of Alabama’s immigration law would require school districts to determine the immigration status of students born abroad and report that information to the Alabama State Board of Education (Board). The Board would then submit a comprehensive state-wide report to the State Legislature.
According to Section 28, the report would include an analysis of the effects that the enrollment of “students who are aliens not lawfully present in the United States” has on school districts in Alabama, including the “effects upon the standard or quality of education provided to students who are citizens of the United States” and the “fiscal costs” of providing “students who are aliens not lawfully present in the United States” with an education.
Although the Eleventh Circuit granted an injunction in October 2011 pending appeal, which prohibited the implementation of Section 28, Alabama school districts were already reporting a significant decrease in the number of Latino students enrolled in their schools.
Arizona’s immigration law had no similar provision, and as expected, the parties in the Alabama case disagree as to what effect the Supreme Court’s recent ruling will have on Section 28. Alabama argued in its supplemental brief that Section 28 was not “facially preempted” by federal law and emphasized the Supreme Court’s admonition that lower courts not assume that state statutes will conflict with federal law until they have had an opportunity to go into effect. On the other hand, the United States asserted in its supplemental brief that the Supreme Court’s ruling “underscores the critical flaws of Alabama’s defense” of Section 28. In doing so, they relied on the Supreme Court’s determination that state statutory schemes, which are designed to keep undocumented aliens from entering or remaining in the state, conflict with federal deportation regulations and can potentially lead to “unnecessary harassment.”
Notably, both sides agreed that the Supreme Court’s decision had effectively invalidated Section 10 and Section 11 of Alabama’s H.B. 56, which were nearly identical to the provisions in Arizona’s law that would have criminalized both an undocumented alien’s failure to register with the Federal government and their attempts to seek or perform unauthorized work.
They also agreed that Sections 12 and 18 of H.B. 56 were similar to Section 2(B) of Arizona’s immigration law, and that, as stipulated by the Supreme Court, those provisions should be left intact unless their subsequent enforcement proves to provide further grounds for legal action.
All other contested provisions of H.B. 56 have no direct corollary in Arizona’s law and, as expected, the sides disagreed as to how the Supreme Court’s ruling will affect those sections.