Alabama, civil rights groups settle suits over immigration law - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Alabama, civil rights groups settle suits over immigration law

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The state of Alabama is agreeing to a settlement in the cases of several remaining challenges to the controversial illegal immigration law it passed in 2011.

Though the legislation was considered the toughest in the nation at the time it was enacted, much of its power was diminished as federal judges gutted it on appeal.

The state, as well as several civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Law Center and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, agreed to the proposed settlement Tuesday that would end a federal lawsuit, as well as suits filed by the U.S. Justice Department and by church leaders.

The agreements are pending final court approval.

Republicans, who took control of both chambers of the state legislature in 2010, moved quickly to pass the law. Though civil rights groups threatened lawsuits, Gov. Robert Bentley signed the bill, known as HB 56, into law.

Almost immediately, opponents filed suit against some of the most controversial aspects of the law which required schools to verify immigration status on new students and criminalized the entering into contracts by Alabamians with undocumented immigrants.

"We warned the legislature when they were debating HB 56 that if they passed this draconian law, we would sue in court and win," said Kristi Graunke, senior staff supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. "That we have done. Now it is time for our state lawmakers to repeal the remnants of HB 56, and for our congressional delegation to support meaningful immigration reform that will fix our broken system."

"The essence of Alabama's immigration law is that if you live or work in Alabama, you should do so legally," said Governor Bentley's spokeswoman, Jennifer Ardis. "And that has not changed."

Under the agreement, the provisions of the law that were temporarily blocked by the courts will now be permanently blocked, the state agrees that local police officers cannot hold someone during a traffic stop based solely to check an immigration status, and coalition attorneys' fees totaling $350,000 will be paid by the state.

WSFA 12 News asked Attorney General Luther Strange for reaction to the settlement and his office issued this statement:

"The Attorney General's Office has vigorously defended our state's immigration law in both the federal trial and appellate courts. The courts have upheld most of the Act but have also made clear that some provisions are invalid. We have a duty to follow the law as set forth by the courts. The filings made today inform the trial court of which claims must be dismissed and which provisions our of law cannot be enforced because of the Supreme Court's and Eleventh Circuit's rulings. It is up to Washington to fulfill its responsibility to enforce the country's immigration laws."

The following key provisions of the law have now been permanently blocked by the courts as a result of the lawsuit:

  • Section 10, which criminalized failing to register one's immigration status, was initially blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and now has been permanently blocked;
  • Section 28, which required schools to verify the immigration status of newly enrolled K-12 students, was initially blocked by the 11th Circuit and now has been permanently blocked.
  • Section 13, which criminalized giving a ride or renting to someone who is undocumented, was initially blocked by the U.S. District Court in Birmingham and now has been permanently blocked;
  • Section 11(a), which criminalized the solicitation of work by unauthorized immigrants, was initially blocked by the District Court in Birmingham and now has been permanently blocked;
  • Sections 11(f) and (g), which criminalized day laborers' First Amendment right to solicit work, was initially blocked by the District Court in Birmingham and now have been permanently blocked;
  • Section 27, which infringed on the ability of individuals to contract with someone who was undocumented, was initially blocked by the 11th Circuit and now has been permanently blocked;

"Today's settlement should remind legislators in both Montgomery and Washington that a person's constitutional rights may not be legislated away," said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center. "Supporters of attempts to nationalize racial profiling policies such as Alabama's HB 56 should be warned: we will fight these efforts at the Capitol, and, if necessary, in the courtroom."

WSFA 12 News will have more on this settlement in each of our evening newscasts.

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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