Deterring Illegal Immigration in Alabama

Hans von Spakovsky, The Foundry, August 21, 2012

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on Monday over Alabama’s Arizona-style immigration law, enjoining many provisions similar to those that the Supreme Court held were preempted by federal law when it issued its decision in June concerning Arizona’s law but upholding other key provisions.

In U.S. v Alabama, the 11th Circuit refused to issue an injunction against Sections 12, 18, and 30 of Alabama’s HB 56. According to the court, those sections of Alabama law:

  • Require officers “to determine a lawfully seized individual’s immigration status when the officer has reasonable suspicion that the seized individual is unlawfully present in the United States” (Section 12).
  • Provide that if a driver cannot show a driver’s license upon request by a state official, “a reasonable effort must be made within forty-eight hours to determine that driver’s citizenship and, if an alien, whether the individual is permissibly present in the country” (Section 18).
  • Prohibit illegal aliens from “entering, or attempting to enter, into a ‘public records transaction’ with the state or a political subdivision thereof.” A “public records transaction” is defined as applying for a car license plate, a driver’s license, or a business, commercial, or professional license. Violations are a felony (Section 30).

Section 12—the ability of police officers to check the immigration status of individuals they have detained or arrested—was the most prominent provision of the law that the Obama Administration attacked. The Justice Department failed to have that provision enjoined, leaving Alabama police officers free to seek such information from those the officers have a reason to suspect are illegal aliens. Following the Supreme Court’s decision on an almost identical provision in the Arizona case, the 11th Circuit said that “it is not problematic to request information explicitly contemplated by federal law.”

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