Alabama municipalities cannot use a section of Alabama’s immigration law that criminalizes business transactions between the state and undocumented immigrants to deny access to manufactured home decals, a federal judge ruled last Wednesday. The ruling was in response to lawsuit brought by plaintiffs worried about their ability to register their manufactured homes without proof of citizenship.
Alabama’s new immigration law, known as HB56, includes a section that makes it illegal for an unlawfully present alien to engage in “a business transaction with the state or a political subdivision of the state.” Some officials were enforcing that section, section 30, by requiring manufactured home owners to show proof of citizenship before being allowed to register their homes and avoid punishment for non-compliance.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that Alabama’s immigration law conflicts with federal law and stopped the law from being applied to the manufactured housing until Dec. 7. The temporary injunction came just hours after a hearing on the case, and just before the close of business for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“When a state law conflicts with a federal statute, the state law is necessarily preempted. [...] In the immigration context, States ‘enjoy no power with respect tothe classification of aliens,” Thompson wrote in his order. He noted that classifying aliens is a federal power, and then cited further law: “As a corollary, the ‘[p]ower to regulate immigration is exclusively a federal power.’”
Owners of manufactured homes must register their homes and pay a fee by Oct. 1 every year. If a home owner fails to register by Nov. 30, he can face a fine or misdemeanor charges and up to three months in jail.
The Central Alabama Fair Housing Center, the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama, and two “John Doe” plaintiffs filed suit against the law on Nov. 18, naming Alabama Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee and Elmore County Probate Judge Jimmy Stubbs as defendants.
The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement after the case praising the decision to block this application of HB56. SPLC was a co-counsel in the case, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, and others.
“Latino Alabamians, 30 percent of whom occupy mobile homes, will have something to truly be grateful for this Thanksgiving,” Linton Joaquin, the general counsel for NILC, said in a statement. “Today’s ruling is a victory that will prevent people from being pushed out of their homes.”
The lawmakers responsible for the Alabama immigration law, state Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) and state Rep. Micky Hammon (R-Decatur), testified in the Nov. 23 hearing on the case.
This was not the first time Beason has been in the witness stand in Judge Thompson’s courtroom. Beason testified as a government witness in the Alabama bingo corruption trial, a case which Thompson presided over. His testimony lasted four full days. Afterwards, Thompson blasted Beason in an opinion written after the bingo trial, and said that Beason and another witness were not credible, and had “ulterior motives rooted in naked political ambition and pure racial bias.”