Supreme Court Rejects Alabama's Request to Review the State's Anti-Immigrant Law

April 29, 2013 5:02 pm

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Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court Ruling Blocking Law’s Criminalizing Acts of Kindness Remains in Place

April 29, 2013

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WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected in HICA v. Bentley the state of Alabama’s request to review a provision of the state’s anti-immigrant law that was blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit last year. The lower courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional for states to enact anti-immigrant “harboring” laws that criminalize ever day activities like giving a friend or neighbor a ride to work or to go to church.

“The Supreme Court made the right decision not to hear this case,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project. “All the lower federal courts and the court of public opinion have said no to divisive state laws like this one, and Americans have moved on to support immigration reform that creates a new common sense immigration system.”

In February, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the provision of the law that criminalizes neighborly acts of kindness, or Section 13, the “harboring and transporting” provision. This provision criminalized individuals who engaged in routine daily activities with undocumented immigrants. The circuit has blocked most of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law as unconstitutional, including provisions that would have chilled Latino student access to Alabama elementary schools.

Last summer, the Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s SB 1070, which served as a model for the Alabama law. The court ruled that much of the Arizona law was unconstitutional because it interfered with federal authority over immigration.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case was expected,” said Sam Brooke, staff attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The high court invalidated most of Arizona’s immigration law last year, stating unequivocally that immigration is a federal issue and states may not create their own enforcement schemes. That is why the lower courts already blocked Alabama’s law. We need meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform from Washington. Hopefully the lessons learned from HB 56 will motivate Congress to act quickly to address this pressing issue.”

“The Supreme Court has rightly struck another nail in the coffin of laws that attempt to sanction racial profiling,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. “Alabama’s legislators, both at the state and at the federal level should take note: they, like the rest of the country, should move forward, not backward, to bring our immigration laws in line with our societal and economic needs.”

The 11th Circuit has also blocked other provisions of the law, including Section 11, which criminalized day laborers’ First Amendment right to solicit work, and Section 28, which requires the immigration verification of newly enrolled K-12 students.

The civil rights organizations involved in HICA v. Bentley, the class-action challenge to Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU of Alabama, the National Immigration Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus, the Asian American Justice Center, MALDEF, the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network, and LatinoJustice-PRLDEF.

More information about HICA v. Bentley can be accessed here.

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