Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, September 28, 2011
A federal judge on Wednesday said Alabama law enforcement officers can try to check the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally, but blocked other parts of the state’s new crackdown law, which is the toughest in the country.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn said Alabama is allowed to tread anywhere that federal law doesn’t explicitly prohibit states from acting, which means the state can enact its own penalties for immigrants who fail to carry their registration papers, and can enable its state and local police to check immigration status.
“Local officials have some inherent authority to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law, so long as the local official ‘cooperates’ with the federal government,” the judge said in her 115-page decision.
And in a key part of her ruling, Judge Blackburn said the state can require schools to determine the legal status of students’ parents, though children of illegal immigrants may not be denied attendance.
But the judge did block four parts of Alabama’s law that she said go beyond what federal law allows: One provision created a civil action against employers who hired illegal immigrants over legal workers; another banned illegal immigrants from applying for a job; one made it a crime to harbor an illegal immigrant; and the other prohibited businesses from claiming tax deductions on wages paid to illegal immigrants.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley called the decision vindication for the state, and promised to appeal those parts of the law that were blocked.
Her ruling puts her at odds with other federal courts that overturned Arizona’s crackdown law, passed last year. In that case, a district judge and then a three-judge appeals court panel both ruled that the federal government has primary authority in immigration law.
In addition to its law enforcement provisions, the Alabama law requires all businesses to use E-Verify, a national database run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that allows employers to check potential hires’ Social Security numbers to see if they are authorized to work.
That issue is now back before Congress, where a House committee last week approved legislation that would make E-Verify mandatory across the country.