Lawsuit Brought Challenging Constitutionality of Alabama HB 56

Last month, the State of Alabama passed a law that was by far the strictest immigration bill passed in the United States since Arizona passed its bill. Under the new law, police must determine a person’s residency if they suspect they may be undocumented, schools must check students and parents’ immigration status and landlords cannot rent homes to undocumented immigrants.

In particular, Alabamians—including countless U.S. citizens and non-citizens who have permission from the federal government to remain in the United States—are subject to unlawful interrogations, searches, seizures, and arrests, which will result in racial profiling. This is because HB 56 mandates law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of any individual they stop, detain, or arrest when they have “reasonable suspicion” that the individual lacks immigration status. Individuals who may be perceived as “foreign” by state or local law enforcement agents will be in constant jeopardy of harassment and unlawfully prolonged detention and arrest by state law enforcement officers operating under HB 56’s new immigration enforcement mandates. And all Alabamians will be required to carry state-approved identity documentation in order to prevent lengthy investigations as to their status. These provisions violate the Fourth Amendment.

In addition to the potential illegal stops, public schools are also impacted by this bill. In particular, every public elementary and secondary school in this state, at the time of enrollment in kindergarten or any grade in such school, shall determine whether the student enrolling in public school was born outside the jurisdiction of the United States or is the child of an alien not lawfully present in the United States and qualifies for assignment to an English as Second Language class or other remedial program.

In response to this law being passed, the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama filed on behalf of several organizations and representing organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, has eight constitutional claims including claims under the Supremacy Clause (arguing that the state law is pre-empted); Fourth Amendment; Equal Protection Clause; Due Process Clause; First amendment claims including speech, assembly, and petition clauses, and the Contracts Clause. Their Complaint also includes two interesting Sixth Amendment claims:
“HB 56 violates the Confrontation Clause because a defendant would be prohibited from confronting the witness who prepared the federal government verification, and the state court is prohibited from considering any evidence except for the federal government verification.”
“HB 56’s criminal provisions violate the Compulsory Process Clause (as well as the Due Process Clause) because a defendant would be prohibited from presenting a defense on the issue of whether he or she possesses lawful immigration status.”
You can see the complaint here

Laws such as HB 56 prevent, not promote, the values that the U.S. was founded by immigrants who help make this a better country. By passing such strong, anti-immigrant measures, States are taking a stance that the U.S. is no longer the welcoming country that it once was. If immigration reform is to ever be realized, let us hope the Supreme Court will see that these state law measures violate the Constitution and that the Federal government should do what it takes to reform and make the system better.