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Justice Department Derails Alabama’s Immigration Law

Late last month, the Justice Department announced that it was settling its lawsuit against the state of Alabama’s House Bill 56 provisions.  On November, 25th, the Justice Department released this announcement to mark the judgment against the state of Alabama.

Alabama House Bill 56, also known as the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, was passed in June 2011.  The bill was one of the most stringent bills aimed at reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in the state.  With the law’s passage also came a lawsuit by the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, which included the following groups:

  •  Southern Poverty Law Center
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation Immigrant’s Rights Project
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation
  • National Immigration Law Center
  • Asian Law Caucus
  • Asian American Justice Center
  • Latino Justice PRLDEF
  • National Day Laborer Organizing Network
  • Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund


According to the settlement, Alabama will not be able to enforce seven provisions of HB 56 that specifically targeted immigrants in that state.  These provisions would have significantly affected the lives of immigrants; from employment, to housing, to transportation, to the enforcement of contracts with immigrants.

Blocked: HB 56, Section 28

Section 28 of HB 56 required all public elementary and secondary schools to verify the immigration status of its students at the time of enrollment.  This section was previously held by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley, 691 F.3d 1236 (11th Cir. 2012) as unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Blocked: HB 56, Sections 11(f) and (g)

Sections 11(f) and (g) prohibited motorists from hiring passengers for work.  According to the Settlement, Alabama conceded that these sections violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Blocked: HB 56, Sections 10, 11(a), 13, and 27

Section 10 criminalized failure to carry “alien registration documents.”  Section 11(a) prohibited unauthorized aliens from obtaining work.  Section 13 criminalized activities with unauthorized aliens.  Section 27 prevented unauthorized aliens from entering into contracts. All sections 10, 11(a), 13 and 27 were held to violate the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

Narrowed Interpretations: HB 56, Sections 12, 18, 20 and Section 19

Alabama has conceded that it would “interpret Sections 12, 18, and 20 of HB.56 to neither require nor authorize state or local law-enforcement officers to stop, detain, arrest, or prolong the detention of any person” in order to determine the person’s immigration status.  The same narrow interpretation would be applied to Section 19.  The settlement, in essence, does not invalidate Sections 12, 18, 20 or 19, but it does force Alabama to very carefully enact the law.

E-Verify Remains in Full Force

Although the settlement was silent on this issue, it’s worthwhile to remind readers that HB 56 is technically still law.  Only certain provisions (indicated above) have been affected.  The provisions that require employers to enroll in and use the federal E-Verify system are still in full force.

Imposing aggressive legal provisions against immigrants, the Justice Department reasoned, diverted valuable resources away from law enforcement to fight (actually) dangerous criminal immigrants and other criminal activity.  In fact, the Justice Department has set up a hotline (855) 353-1010 and email address [email protected] to alert the general public to any violations resulting from provisions in HB56 which have been invalidated.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think the settlement was fair?  Does the settlement against Alabama signify a warning to other states contemplating passing restrictice laws like HB56?  Please leave us your comments.