A federal judge ruled Friday to block several key parts of Alabama’s embattled immigration law HB 56. Most notably, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta struck down the piece of the bill which required public school officials to verify the U.S. citizenship of newly enrolled students. In addition, the court also ruled that Alabama can not charge immigrants who are not in possession of an “alien registration card” with a misdemeanor. However, in a partial victory for the proponents of HB 56, the court ruled in favor of several of the law’s provisions, including the use of state and local law enforcement officials to seek out and arrest undocumented individuals.
With this latest update in the ongoing saga regarding the constitutionality of HB 56, Alabama is once again walking in the same path as Arizona, which itself has been embroiled a legal controversy over the past several years regarding the constitutionality of its immigration law SB 1070. Much like the judge’s ruling yesterday on Alabama’s immigration law, a federal court similarly ruled in July 2010 to block several key provisions of 1070. An appeals court ruled earlier this year to uphold the decision. Still, a slightly pared down version of 1070 has been put into place in the state.
Unfortunately for those fighting against the Arizona and Alabama immigration laws, polls show that these measures are largely popular among the general public. In virtually every poll done recently regarding immigration enforcement, the public has come down hard against showing any leniency to those in this country illegally. For example, in a recent Gallup poll, fifty-five percent of those surveyed opposed providing a path to legal U.S. residency for at least some undocumented individuals in this country. Similarly, in a CBS News poll asking respondents if they supported requiring police officers to verify the citizenship status of suspected undocumented immigrants, 69 percent approved of this measure. In addition, fifty-nine percent of those polled nationally by the Pew Center approved of Arizona’s SB 1070.
Partially as a result of the overwhelming popularity of harshly and unambiguously seeking out and punishing the undocumented in this country, several states are already jumping on the bandwagon already put into motion by Arizona and Alabama. Lawmakers in Georgia, Indiana, Utah and South Carolina are all looking to become the next vanguards for anti-immigrant legislation.
Regardless of the popularity of the laws passed in Arizona and Alabama, it is undeniable that these bills have had a variety of negative repercussions in the communities that approved them. The legalization of racial profiling has created an environment of fear enveloping legal Latino residents of these states. Individuals who would once have cooperated with the local officials, for example in reporting crimes, are now afraid to come forward. And businesses are feeling the pain of a dramatically diminished available labor force.