On Monday, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging Alabama’s controversial new immigration law H.B. 56. The department is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the law, which is set to go into effect on September 1, 2011. According to their brief, the Department of Justice says that H.B. 56 would interfere with federal immigration law, and disrupt the government’s ability to balance enforcement priorities.
LIRS is joined by Alabamians like ELCA Bishop Julian Gordy and lay Lutheran leader Myron Allenstein in our opposition to the bill. H.B. 56 is similar to Arizona’s S.B. 1070 in attempting to criminalize every aspect of an undocumented migrant’s life, in order to accomplish “enforcement through attrition.” Alabama’s new law impedes a migrant’s ability to apply for employment, to secure housing or transportation and even affects a migrant’s ability to enter into an enforceable contract. The law also imposes additional penalties on unlawful presence and employs an immigration status verification system to increase opportunities for Alabama police officers to check an individual’s immigration status.
The Department of Justice criticizes the Alabama law for requiring that children prove their lawful presence, which the department fears will discourage parents from enrolling their children in school. A.C. Roper, the Birmingham Chief of Police, echoes these concerns, stating that he believes that Alabama’s new immigration law will hinder local law enforcement’s ability to do their job by forcing them to expend scarce resources on immigration enforcement rather than municipal priorities.
Last year, the Department of Justice filed a similar lawsuit against the state of Arizona, and successfully obtained a preliminary injunction against S.B. 1070, which halted the enactment of parts of the law. The department warns that, like S.B. 1070, Alabama’s new law could result in the harassment and detention of foreign visitors, legal immigrants and even U.S. citizens who are unable to immediately prove their legal status.
LIRS strongly believes that instead of creating a patchwork of state laws that hurts families and sows distrust in communities, state legislators should to continue to pressure Congress and the Administration to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws and policies.