U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn is heard arguments against Alabama’s tough new immigration law this morning in federal court in Birmingham, and appears to be leaning towards an injunction against some of the law’s provisions, which go into effect on Sept. 1.
The law, passed in the last state legislative session, has been challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, and a number of other groups, including a coalition of Alabama ministers. Lawyers for the DOJ, ACLU and the SPLC made arguments against the law before lunch.
William Orrick, an attorney representing the United States, argued that many sections of Alabama’s law are preempted by federal laws. “With these immigration crimes, there is no room for state involvement in this,” Orrick said.
“There is a problem with the patchwork. If 50 states are applying 50 different laws [...] it would be a totally unworkable system.”
Judge Blackburn said she had read affidavits from various law enforcement officials, including Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale and former Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper. “I don’t think that the difficulty of applying the statute is before me,” Blackburn said.
“There are a lot of problems in enforcing this statute from a law enforcement perspective,” Blackburn said. “Is that anything that’s even relevant to my decision at all? Because I don’t think it is.”
Orrick also argued that lawfully present aliens could face harassment under the new law, known as House Bill 56.
State Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale), who sponsored HB56 in the Senate, was present at the hearings this morning. He offered some comments to the press, who were gathered together with dozens of opponents of the law in an overflow room in the Hugo L. Black Federal Courthouse.
“I still feel good about the law,” Beason said.
On federal cooperation with Alabama immigration enforcement, Beason said state law enforcement agencies have tried to reach out to federal immigration agencies.
“The state has asked the government for cooperation, you know,” Beason said. “We don’t get that cooperation. That’s one of the reasons we ended up having to pass the legislation.”
On a provision in the new Alabama law asking schools to collect more information about students, Beason said: “I think it’s important that we have that information.” A plaintiff’s attorney argued that information collected would be used to create policy down the road. “I don’t think it’s the end of the world to show where my kids are born,” Beason said.
“We’re elected to look out for Alabamians and we’re trying our best,” Beason said. “I don’t hear the ACLU or government lawyers arguing at all for the rights of Alabama citizens.”
“They have no concern for the effect immigration has had on Alabama citizens.”
Hearings continue this afternoon.
Follow the immigration law hearings live by clicking here or by following @SecondFront on Twitter.