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Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Small town paralegal in the city. Once ran a law office, now being run by one. Med mal defense litigation. I think it's growing on me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Immigration Laws -- What's Up With That?

Guest Post  by Sydney Muray


A new immigration law that recently passed in Alabama is being called the toughest of its kind in the nation by critics and supporters alike. The law has incited a slew of passionate backlash, and recently the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state, fighting Alabama’s decision in a way that echoes what happened in Arizona. There is no doubt that this trend will continue to grow, affecting everyone from the court lawyer to the paralegal to the families of immigrants and beyond. State leaders are fed up with what they perceive to be the federal government’s inability to control the problem of immigration – and as we can see, they’re now taking matters into their own hands on a large scale.

The movement toward more stringent state laws governing illegal immigration began in 2006. Though various bills have been proposed in many states, few have been enacted into law that can actually be construed as being detrimental to the freedom many illegal immigrants enjoy in the U.S. This cannot be said for the law in Alabama.

The Alabama Law

The new Alabama law, which takes effect on September 1, 2011, gives police the power to request documentation of a person's legal right to be in the United States when they are stopped for any purpose.

Let Look At This Example

A person who is pulled over for speeding might be asked to produce proof of their citizenship or residency status in the U.S. if the police officer suspects the person may be an illegal alien.

Sounds Familiar?

This component of the Alabama law is similar to the one that passed in Arizona in 2010. The Arizona law gave police officers the right to ask for such verification of legal citizenship status, but continuing litigation over the matter has kept that part of the law from going into full effect.

The Alabama law, however, goes even further than the controversial Arizona law. Public schools in Alabama will now be required to collect information regarding each student’s citizenship status upon enrollment. Students seeking enrollment who cannot produce a proper birth certificate or provide a sworn affidavit will not be admitted to school. Critics suggest that this component of the law will harass young students and cause an undue financial burden on the school districts that would have to collect the information.

Businesses in Alabama that knowingly employ illegal immigrants could also face stiff penalties for the practice, up to and including the suspension or revocation of the business’ operating license. Under the law employers would be required to utilize the federal government E-verify database system. As they begin the hiring process with new employees, the employer would be required to check the applicant’s Social Security number against the contents of the E-verify database. Anyone whose information could not be verified would fall under suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally and could not be hired.

And there is more:

It would be a crime to knowingly provide transportation or shelter to illegal aliens. This even applies to churches and other charitable and aid organizations, something critics suggest would sadly circumvent the stated mission of such organizations. They cite the fact that the law essentially allows the state government to determine who receives aid from non-profit organizations as needlessly harmful and invasive.

The Pro's:

Not surprisingly, this new legislation is causing a great deal of controversy. Supporters hail it as a way to safeguard the state from the estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants currently thought to be living in Alabama. They believe the new law will protect the interests of U.S. citizens and their businesses.

The Con's

Critics suggest that the new law will lead to racial profiling. Organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU believe the new Alabama law to be unconstitutional as well as racist in nature. Many such individuals and organizations are planning litigation to protest the law. The Obama administration has already sued the state, citing that illegal immigration is a national issue that must be addressed on the federal level, rather than having each state enact their own statutes.

What Do Other States Do?

Other states have passed laws dealing with immigration issues. Utah tried to find a happy medium by allowing undocumented workers within the state. The bill also allows police to check immigration status for people arrested for serious crimes. Virginia may at some point pass a law aimed at keeping illegals from enrolling in public universities. Florida is also considering legislation that would require businesses to use the E-verify database when hiring new employees. Whether any of these bills become law, and whether they stand up to litigation, remains to be seen. One thing is certain. Illegal immigration is likely to remain a hot button issue until the federal government can propose a fair-minded and comprehensive policy that will be reasonable enough for all states to accept.