Federal appeals court temporarily blocks enforcement of Alabama immigration law provision requiring schools to verify new students’ status
According to an Associated Press (AP) report in the Washington Post, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has granted the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) motion for a preliminary injunction barring Alabama from enforcing a provision in its immigration law that requires school officials to verify the citizenship status of students enrolled after Sept. 1, 2011. The injunction also bars enforcement of a section of the law that allows police to file a misdemeanor charge against anyone who is in the country illegally and doesn’t have federal registration papers.
Advocacy groups who challenged the law said they were hopeful the judges will eventually block the rest of it. “I think that certainly it’s a better situation [...] for the people of Alabama today than it was yesterday,” said Omar Jadwat, an attorney for the ACLU. “Obviously we remain concerned about the remainder of the provisions, and we remain confident that we will eventually get the whole scheme blocked.”
It’s not clear exactly how many Hispanics have fled the state, but earlier this week many skipped work to protest the law, shuttering or scaling back operations at chicken plants and other businesses. Alabama’s law is in the spotlight because it’s the only state where some of the strictest provisions were allowed to play out.
Arizona led the nation in April 2010 when it passed a tough crackdown, but a judge blocked parts of it before it could take effect. Gov. Jan Brewer has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices have yet to decide whether to take up the case. A similar measure adopted in Utah earlier this year was put on hold by a federal judge in May after civil rights groups challenged it. Ditto for parts of new immigration laws passed by Georgia and Indiana. South Carolina became a flashpoint this week when civil rights groups sued the state to block a law that takes effect in January, requiring police to check suspects’ immigration status and mandating that all businesses check their hires through a federal online system.
DOJ called the Alabama law a “sweeping new state regime” and urged the appeals court to forbid states from creating a patchwork of immigration policies. Thomas Perez, head of DOJ’s civil rights division, said he was particularly concerned about the school requirement. “We’re hearing a number of reports about increases in bullying that we’re studying,” said Perez. He said the government is trying to determine how many absences and withdrawals are linked to the law.
Source: Washington Post, 10/15/11, By AP
[Editor's Note: In October 2011, Legal Clips summarized an AP story carried by ABC News reporting that the DOJ had filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in this case. The appeal sought to overturn the portion of the lower federal court’s ruling allowing enforcement of some provisions of the Alabama immigration law. DOJ’s appeal contended that the law, considered by many to be the most stringent immigration measure in the country, could cause considerable fallout as immigrants flee to other states or their native countries.
The Eleventh Circuit's opinion granting the preliminary injunction is available here. One judge would have enjoined enforcement of two additional sections of the law.
According to the decision, Section 28 of the immigration law requires every public school in Alabama to determine at the time of enrollment whether a student "'was born outside the jurisdiction of the United States or is the child'of an unlawfully present alien and qualifies for assignment to an English as second language class or other remedial program." The school must rely on an original birth certificate or a certified copy.
The Eleventh Circuit panel's decision reported above combines two ongoing cases - one filed by DOJ and the other by private plaintiffs - challenging the constitutionality of the entire law. On September 28, 2011, the district court issued an order in each case preliminarily enjoining only some of the law's provisions. Because the remaining provisions went into effect on September 29, both DOJ and the private plaintiffs filed motions for injunction pending appeal with the Eleventh Circuit. The panel decision discussed above addresses these motions. The Eleventh Circuit is expediting the appeal as to the merits of the cases, i.e., the district court's orders denying preliminary injunctions of enforcement of the law. Stay tuned.]