Federal judge temporarily halts Alabama anti-immigrant law

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A federal judge in Birmingham, Ala., temporarily halted the state's anti-immigrant law - a measure so harsh that it makes Arizona's notorious law and its prejudice against Hispanics look mild by comparison.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn ruled on Aug. 29 that she needs another month to study the full ramifications of the law, which was to take effect Sept. 1. She imposed a restraining order against it. The Service Employees are in the forefront of unions against the law. The Obama administration also challenged the Alabama law.

The Alabama law, like Arizona's infamous law, is directed against Hispanics and lets law enforcement stop anyone at any time and demand to see proof of legal residence, on pain of immediate arrest and deportation.

But Alabama also makes anyone who helps undocumented workers - even if they just offer food and water from soup kitchens - into criminals. And Alabama's law would require school officials to "verify the citizenship status" of students.

Technically, that would not ban children of undocumented workers from attending school, regardless of the children's' status. Practically, it would scare them away. And Alabama would make anyone who rents or sells homes or provides transportation to undocumented workers into a felon.

SEIU spokesman Gebe Martinez blasted the Alabama law when the Republican-run legislature and the GOP governor strongly pushed for it earlier this year. Martinez said the union, which joined civil rights and immigrants' rights groups in their challenge to the Alabama law, applauds the Obama administration's stand against it. SEIU also joined legal challenges to anti-undocumented worker laws in Arizona and Georgia.

"States cannot make up their own immigration laws any more than they can print their own money or enter into treaties with foreign countries. Furthermore, the Alabama law conflicts with federal enforcement of immigration laws," Martinez said.

"The Justice Department's lawsuit against the Alabama law is even more critical, given the more draconian nature of the Alabama law. In Alabama, immigration opponents targeted every aspect of immigrants' daily lives, seeking to make their mere existence so difficult that they would flee the state.

"The law restricts employment, housing, transportation, contractual agreements, and even education for the children of undocumented workers. The impact will be felt by all Alabamans, regardless of status, as they will be judged 'guilty' until they can prove their innocence. Law enforcement based on appearances alone has been strongly opposed by top law enforcement officers across the country."

Photo: 57allison // CC 2.0

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