What's at Stake
The Alabama state legislature passed a draconian anti-immigrant law in June, 2011, the toughest of several state laws modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070. Like the Arizona law, SB 56 authorized police to ask for proof of citizenship or immigration status during a traffic stop based on “reasonable suspicion” that the person was an undocumented immigrant. The law went even further than Arizona’s, with provisions that required public school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents, that made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to solicit work, and criminalized Alabamians for ordinary, everyday interactions with undocumented individuals like renting a mobile home or offering a ride.
Shortly after its passage, the American Civil Liberties Union, along with a coalition of civil rights groups, filed a class action lawsuit charging that HB 56 unlawfully subjected Alabamians – including countless U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents – to unlawful search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The lawsuit also challenged other provisions, including the one that would bar many immigrants from attending public colleges or universities, and another that would have made it a crime to work as a day laborer. The suit also charged that HB56 illegally interfered with federal government’s exclusive power over immigration matters.
The federal district court blocked many provisions of the law. But because it allowed other unconstitutional provisions to go into effect, the ACLU and coalition partners appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in September, 2011. Later than year, and in 2012, the 11th Circuit blocked key provisions of HB 56. The court invalidated those provisions of Alabama’s law that required schools to verify the immigration status of incoming students; that criminalized failure to carry immigration documents; and that invalidated contracts with undocumented immigrants; and that made it a crime to transport undocumented immigrants.
Those same provisions of HB56, and those blocked by the federal district court, were permanently blocked in October 2013, when the state of Alabama agreed to a settlement in the lawsuit (the Alabama Legislature also amended HB 56 in 2012 in ways that substantially limited two of the blocked provisions). The settlement also put limits on the “show me your papers” provision of the law by forbidding local police from holding someone solely to check immigration status or solely because the person is undocumented.