While comprehensive immigration reform remains stalled at the federal level, individual states continue to implement measures relating to immigration.
On March 8, 2012, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals blocked two provisions of Alabama’s sweeping immigration law, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act (HB 56), pending review of a federal challenge to the measure. The ruling further dilutes Alabama’s embattled immigration law, considered the toughest in the country. Expanding on the court’s initial October 2011 injunction, the ruling addresses a provision that makes it a felony for an illegal immigrant to do business with the state and one that bars courts from enforcing contracts with illegal immigrants. As reported in the October 2011 issue of the Immigration eAuthority, the Eleventh Circuit previously enjoined two of the law’s most controversial provisions that create a criminal violation for failure to carry appropriate federal immigration documents and require public schools to check the immigration status of students. The March ruling left intact a contentious provision that requires law enforcement officials to investigate the immigration status of a person stopped or arrested if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the United States illegally.
These provisions are blocked pending the outcome of a U.S. Department of Justice appeal of the ruling of a federal district court upholding key provisions of the law. The federal government seeks to permanently enjoin enforcement of the Alabama law on the basis that it unconstitutionally infringes on the federal government’s exclusive authority over immigration.
Federal judges in other jurisdictions have blocked key parts of punitive immigration laws in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah. In April 2010, Arizona became the first state to pass an immigration law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration and triggered a wave of similar state-level efforts. Following an April 2011 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a preliminary injunction against several provisions of the Arizona law, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Justice Department’s challenge to the law on federal preemption grounds on April 25. The limits on the Alabama measure are expected to remain in place until the U.S. Supreme Court makes its ruling on the similar Arizona law.