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ACLU Lens: Appeals Court Blocks Two Sections of Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law Fought by ACLU

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October 14, 2011

Two of the more-pernicious sections of HB56, Alabama’s sweeping anti-immigrant law, were blocked this afternoon by a federal appeals court.

However, the judges left intact other parts of the law, which has prompted thousands of immigrants in Alabama to flee the state, go into hiding and stop showing up for work for fear of being arrested by authorities.

The ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups, along with the U.S. Department of Justice, have mounted a vigorous challenge to the law, the most restrictive of its kind in the nation.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit enjoined a provision that required public schools to determine whether a new student who registers was born outside of the U.S. or is the child of an “unlawfully present” alien. No other anti-immigrant law passed by a state contains such a provision, and fears over its enforcement have led to a drop in attendance for Latino students in Alabama.

The court also prevented Alabama from enforcing a part of the law that would have created a new state criminal offense for failing to carry specified immigration documents.

“We are particularly relieved that the court has blocked the provision of the law that has had a devastating effect on children’s access to schools, along with the documentation provision that has led to unjustifiable arrests and detention,” said Omar Jadwat, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “We remain deeply concerned about the provisions that are still in effect, and are confident that we will ultimately succeed in overturning this entire unconstitutional scheme.”

The Eleventh Circuit will now hear an appeal of a lower-court ruling last month that upheld most of the law. A final decision is not expected for months.

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