On Wednesday, at the Hugo Black courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, federal judge Sharon Blackburn and approximately 200 others in attendance heard a full day’s worth of arguments to determine whether Blackburn should enjoin Alabama’s controversial immigration law, HB 56. The proceedings lasted longer than expected as a result of the judge’s decision to hear jointly all three legal challenges to the law—by the Department of Justice, an alliance of civil and immigrants’ rights groups, and a group of Alabamian bishops. At day’s end, it remained unclear how the judge would rule, but she did provide certain clues to how she was leaning on certain key issues.
Alabama’s HB 56 includes a laundry list of provisions that target undocumented immigrants, including:
• Requiring local and state law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they stop, detain or arrest if they have “reasonable suspicion” that person is in the country illegally;
• Preventing cities and towns from not applying federal and state enforcement policies to their fullest extent;
• Excluding undocumented immigrants (and, in fact, certain lawfully present immigrants—such as asylees—who lack particular authorization documents) from public universities;
• Requiring public schools to gather documentation revealing students’ and parents’ immigration status before enrollment;
• Creating new state crimes for “concealing,” “harboring,” “shielding,” or “transporting” an undocumented immigrant (the act never defines these terms);
• Creating a state crime for anyone who is in the country unlawfully without an alien registration document;
• Creating state crimes for undocumented immigrants working or soliciting work;
• Nullifying any contract entered into by an undocumented immigrant;
• Mandating businesses to use a federal electronic verification system (E-Verify) and threatening to rescind their business license if they do not comply; and
• Denying bail to anyone who is arrested and shown to be an undocumented immigrant;
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