According to breaking news reported by the Wall Street Journal, the federal government asked an appeals court Friday to halt the Alabama immigration law, claiming it may encourage discrimination, forces aliens into other adjacent states and could have unhealthy international consequences. Read the text of the Alabama law, H.B. 56, here.
The motion, filed in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, claimed Alabama's new law is "highly likely to expose persons lawfully in the United States, including school children, to new difficulties in routine dealings." [U.S. Seeks to Block Alabama Immigration Law, Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2011]
Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn earlier upheld two key provisions in H. B.that allow authorities to question people suspected of being in the country illegally and hold them without bond and allow officials check the immigration status of students in public schools. All students enrolling in primary and secondary Alabama schools will be asked to show a birth certificate as evidence of legal residency.
Proponents of higher immigration levels claim that the Alabama law is stricter than similar legislation passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. Federal judges in those states have blocked all or parts of those measures.
Overburdened Alabamans have long argued for stricter enforcement of laws governing illegal immigration. This year after Republicans gained control of the legislature, Governor Robert Bentley signed H.B. 56. Opponents immediately call it the "toughest immigration law in America." The Alabama law has also been the target of widespread media condemnation. [Alabama’s Shame, Editorial, New York Times, October 3, 2011]
Whether the Alabama law is the toughest or not may be debatable. But it had an immediate effect. Local legislators noticed that many aliens were self-deporting. Jobs that they walked away from were immediately filled with legally authorized workers, most of the American citizens. One of the Alabama bill’s provisions is mandatory E-Verify.
Earlier this week, the Wayne Farms chicken-processing plant in Marshall County held a jobs’ fair to fill slots that opened when many illegal workers left the county. According to city council member Chuck Ellis, the line "was probably equivalent to a couple of blocks … It was a largely Anglo and black group," but also included Hispanics, he added.
Ellis’ observation confirms what enforcement advocates have been insisting for years: that removing aliens from the job market immediately opens up opportunities for all Americans—black, white and Hispanic.
All the Alabama measures upheld by Judge Blackburn will remain in effect while the appeals court evaluates the Justice Department's request.