There is still hope for immigrant residents of Alabama. After the state legislature passed the harshest, most irrational and far-reaching immigration law in the nation’s history to date, U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn has decided to block its new law for a month to give herself more time to rule on whether parts or all of it are constitutional. This temporary preliminary injunction will be in place until September 29 th when the judge issues her permanent ruling in the case. As we mentioned before, this draconian law would effectively make it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant in Alabama, by criminalizing working, renting a home and failing to comply with obsolete federal registration laws. The law would also nullify any contracts when one party is an undocumented immigrant, and requires the police to check the papers of people they suspect to be here illegally. But it does not stop there: the law also penalizes American citizens who “knowingly conceal, harbor or shield” an illegal immigrant. Businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants will lose their licenses, and public school officials will be required to determine students’ immigration status and report back to the state.
Given the strict components that make up this law, it is no surprise that officials call this the strongest immigration law in the country. This law was implemented in June by Alabama’s Governor, Robert Bentley, who has taken pains to consistently come out and speak in its defense. Upon news of the injunction, Bentley released a statement saying he looked forward to Judge Blackburn’s ruling on the merits of the case. “Judge Blackburn clearly understands the complexity of this issue and we are encouraged by her willingness to carefully examine all aspects of the case prior to [the] ruling,” Gov. Bentley said. The reality of the situation is that the fact that this law prompted outrage testifies to the prevailing mood that it is rife with injustice, being quite evidently constituted by xenophobic, discriminatory and plainly vicious elements. It is clear that the concerted acts brought on by the U.S. Department of Justice, an array of civil rights groups, and the leaders of Alabama’s various religious denominations, have brought pressure to bear on the state of Alabama and on superior authorities to keep it in check. It is our greatest hope that the U.S. District court may see right through its guise and expose it as what it really is: a sweeping attempt to terrorize undocumented immigrants in every aspect of their lives, and to make potential criminals of anyone who may work or live with them or show them kindness.