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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Friday sought an immediate order blocking Alabama's strict new immigration law pending appeal, arguing that it was already driving immigrants out of the state.

The Justice Department asked the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, to stay the law after a federal judge in Alabama refused to do so because she said the government had not established that there would be substantial harm to the public interest.

The controversial state law allows police to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally if they cannot show proper documentation when stopped by authorities for any reason.

The law also permits the state to require public schools to determine the legal residency of children and bars illegal immigrants from getting a driver's license or business license. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn upheld those provisions of the law last week.

The Obama administration has already appealed her ruling to the 11th Circuit, arguing that it interferes with the federal government's exclusive authority over immigration. In addition to seeking a temporary stay pending appeal, the Justice Department asked that the case be expedited.

"News accounts confirm that the law is having its intended but impermissible consequences of driving aliens from the state," the Justice Department said in its emergency stay request, adding that parents were already keeping their children home from school.

Several states have passed new laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, arguing the Obama administration is not doing enough to deter it.

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Arizona adopted its own tough law but the Justice Department successfully sued to block it.

(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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