A federal appeals court on Oct. 14 blocked a key part of Alabama’s law that requires schools to check the immigration status of students, temporarily weakening what was considered the toughest immigration law in the nation and relieving schools from an awkward role that had led hundreds of undocumented students to flee the state’s classrooms.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also blocked a part of the law that allows authorities to charge immigrants who do not carry documents proving their legal status. The three-judge panel let stand a provision that allows police to detain immigrants that are suspected of being in the country illegally.
The ruling was only temporary. A final decision on the law won’t likely be made for months.
Groups who challenged the law said they were hopeful the judges eventually would block the rest of it.
“I think that certainly it’s a better situation for the people of Alabama today than it was yesterday,” said Omar Jadwat, an attorney for the ACLU, which challenged the law along with the Obama administration. “Obviously we remain concerned about the remainder of the provisions, and we remain confident that we will eventually get the whole scheme blocked.”
Supporters of the law also claimed a partial victory.
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who championed the law, said the “most effectual parts” of the law will remain in place.
“We’ve said from the beginning that Alabama will have a strict immigration law and we will enforce it. Alabama will not be a sanctuary state for illegal aliens, and this ruling reinforces that,” he said.
The judges also let stand parts of the law that bar state courts from enforcing contracts involving illegal immigrants and make it a felony for an illegal immigrant to do business with the state for basic things like getting a driver’s license.
Alabama Republicans passed the law earlier this year. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed the measure, saying it was crucial to protect the jobs of legal residents amid the tough economy and high unemployment.
The law has already had a deep impact in Alabama since a federal judge upheld much of it in late September. Many frightened Hispanics have been driven away from Alabama, fearing they could be arrested or targeted by police. Construction workers, landscapers, and field hands have stopped showing up for work, and large numbers of Hispanic students have been absent from public schools.