US asks court to halt Alabama’s immigration law

Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home from school. Some towns and urban areas have also reported a sudden exodus of Hispanics, some of whom told officials they planned to leave the state to avoid trouble with the law.

To cope with the labor shortage, Alabama agriculture commissioner John McMillan suggested Friday that farmers should consider hiring the 2,300 or so inmates in the state’s work-release program.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn last month blocked some of the strictest portions of the crackdown, including a part that forbids drivers from stopping along a road to hire temporary workers, a ban on businesses from receiving tax deductions for wages paid to illegal workers and a provision that makes it a crime for an illegal immigrant to solicit work.

But the judge let other portions of the law stand, asserting that several groups failed to show they met the legal standards to block the law. That coalition, which filed a separate lawsuit, filed its appeal late Friday.

The 11th Circuit’s order, which came hours after the appeals were filed, also agreed to expedite a hearing on the case. It said it would hold oral arguments on the dispute no earlier than Nov. 29.

Allison Neal of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, which was part of the coalition that sued, said she hopes the “11th Circuit will act quickly on this because of the real harm we are seeing here in Alabama.”

Legal experts say they expect the Supreme Court to eventually weigh in on the issue, but are still uncertain which state will win the race to the court.

“Whether the Alabama one is heard or not, I can’t predict. But until there’s greater clarity from Congress or the court, there’s going to be more appeals,” said Doug Towns, an Atlanta lawyer who specializes in immigration employment law. “Opponents say this creates a patchwork approach to immigration policy, and ultimately that needs to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The Justice Department’s challenge called the Alabama law a “sweeping new state regime” and urged the appeals court to forbid states from creating a patchwork of independent immigration policies. It also said the law could strain diplomatic relations with Latin American countries, who have warned the law could impact millions of workers, tourists and students in the U.S.

The law, it said, turns illegal immigrants into a “unique class who cannot lawfully obtain housing, enforce a contract, or send their children to school without fear that enrollment will be used as a tool to seek to detain and remove them and their family members.”

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