The verdict is out on the Alabama immigration law: unfortunately, the federal judge has partially rejected the federal government’s request to block this strict new law that is considered to be the toughest on illegal immigrants. It makes it a crime for an illegal resident to apply for a job, it requires public schools to check the immigration status of students, and it authorizes state police to verify the immigration status of people who are detained or arrested, among other provisions. The Justice Department had filed a lawsuit against it, claiming the law is unconstitutional on the grounds it usurps federal authority over immigration. But U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn of Alabama has upheld key sections of the Alabama law concluding that they are not preempted by federal law. The judge kept the provisions authorizing local police to inquire about detainees’ immigration status and requiring public school to verify students’ immigration status. The judge did, however, ban other sections of the law, ruling that “there is a substantial likelihood” that the Justice Department can establish that the sections are preempted by federal law. The judge also blocked provisions that would have made it a crime for illegal residents to apply for a job and those making it unlawful for people to “conceal, harbor or shield” an illegal resident. Alabama governor Robert Bentley has released a statement calling the judge’s ruling a “victory for Alabama.” “If the federal government had done its job by enforcing its own immigration laws, there would be no need for Alabama-or other states-to pass a law such as this. Unfortunately they have failed to do their job. I am optimistic that this law will be completely upheld, and I remain committed to seeing this law fully implemented. I will continue to fight at every turn to defend this law against any and all challenges.” An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrants’ Rights Project, which has also challenged the Alabama law in court, called the ruling a “mixed bag.” The judge let stand sections of the Alabama law “that are of serious concern, and the enforcement of those sections would lead to widespread civil rights violations. [On the other hand] It is positive that she has [blocked] some of the [harshest] sections of the law.” The outcome of this law may be somewhat of a disappointment yet this in no way undermines the federal government’s overall direction when it comes to this matter. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice (DOJ) said they are reviewing the ruling to determine its next steps. “We will continue to evaluate state immigration-related laws and will not hesitate to bring suit if, in fact, a state creates its own immigration policy or enforces state laws in a manner that interferes with federal immigration law,” the DOJ official said. Be that as it may, hope is never lost. This verdict along with the federal government’s directive sheds a ray of hope for all of those who are being persecuted by strict state laws such as this one.
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