9OYS Immigration Watch
Alabama’s immigration law is now stricter than Arizona’s
Officers can check immigration status during traffic stops and arrests
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV/AP) – A federal judge upheld most of Alabama’s far-reaching immigration law challenged by the Justice Department Wednesday, including a controversial portion similar to one in S.B. 1070 that an Arizona court blocked last year.
Alabama now has the strictest and broadest immigration law in the country, following Judge Sharon Blackburn’s decision in District Court, which among other things: allows officers to check a person’s immigration status during traffic stops and arrests; upholds a section nullifying contracts entered into by an illegal immigrant; and enables schools to determine the immigration status of students.
John Messing, an attorney who specializes in immigration law, told KGUN9 News the decision will not directly impact Arizona.
“The Arizona judge is kind of an equal to the Alabama judge sitting in a different part of the country, so it’s unlikely anything the Alabama judge did is going to affect the proceedings in front of the Arizona judge,” Messing explained.
The Alabama case is on its way to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals – and if that ruling differs from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on SB 1070, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely take up the issue.
“The Supreme Court can decide whether they want to hear it or not. If they decide not to hear it, whatever decision below is upheld,” Messing said.
Republican State Representative Vic Williams, a proponent of Arizona’s immigration law, welcomes it: “I’m confident that the major part of SB 1070 and its ability to enforce will be upheld at Supreme Court, as well as other states like Alabama, Tennessee and Utah,” Williams said.
Messing said people who drafted SB 1070 are involved now in creating the ones from various states and are learning from their mistakes; however, in the long run that presents a risk for them.
“The more divergence there is in these various laws, the more the point of the federal government becomes clear that it becomes harder to manage things in different states,” Messing said.
Some SB 1070 supporters like Williams said the hodgepodge of laws emphasizes the failure of the federal government.
“There’s certainly a valid point where you want uniformity in these laws. However, our federal government has completely failed in trying to enforce illegal immigration policy at the federal level,” Williams said.
Either way, states poised to pass stricter immigration laws are now waiting to hear from the nation’s highest court.
“I would imagine that having a uniform, authoritative decision would help people who are looking at immigration laws. It would be very beneficial,” Messing said.
A justice department representative said it is reviewing the Alabama ruling to determine the next steps. Meanwhile, Governor Jan Brewer said she hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will take up illegal immigration, to get some much-needed clarity on the issue.