Alabama immigration law critics try to block it with appeal

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2011 3:13 PM
Alabama immigration law critics try to block it with appeal

By Peggy Gargis and Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Reuters) - A coalition of civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups filed an appeal on Thursday of a federal judge's ruling that let stand much of Alabama's tough new immigration law.

The groups, along with President Barack Obama's administration and church leaders, have sought to block what is widely seen as the toughest state crackdown on illegal immigration.

Chief U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ruled on Wednesday that Alabama could begin requiring public schools to determine the legal residency of children.

She also gave the green light for police to detain people suspected of being in the United States illegally if they cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and fellow Republican lawmakers hailed the judge's decision as a major win in their efforts to curb illegal immigration in their state. Federal judges have previously blocked key parts of other immigration laws passed in Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Indiana.

Conservatives have complained that the federal government has failed to sufficiently stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the country, forcing states to take action to protect their borders and jobs.

The plaintiffs group in the appeal, led by the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, also filed an emergency motion on Thursday seeking to keep some disputed parts of the law from taking effect pending the appeal.

Educators and law enforcement officials in the state were among those waiting for guidance on how to proceed and wondering what effect an appeal might have.

"At this point we do not know if that will involve a stay of the law from going into effect before the appeal is heard," said Randy Christian, chief deputy of the Jefferson County Sheriff Department.

"We also have to get some answers on how we actually enforce it and how we can do so without involving racial profiling."

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan said a statewide web seminar series on the new law would be held on October 14.

"Now that there is a ruling from the federal district court, we are moving forward to help farmers and agribusinesses understand their role and responsibilities in complying with the immigration law," McMillan said in a statement.

"This law contains many provisions with stiff fines and penalties. It is critical for farmers and agribusinesses to understand fully how this law applies to them."

(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)