NCLR, SPLC Aplaud Supreme Court Ruling on Alabama Immigration Measure

NCLR (National Council of La Raza) and Southern Law Poverty Center (SPLC) welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to block Alabama from enforcing a state law that would have allowed the arrest of individuals who transported undocumented immigrants within the state.  In an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court allowed the ruling made last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta to stand.  The lower court’s decision, in part, was based on the acknowledgement that immigration is the responsibility of the federal government and not the states.  Today’s decision will impact similar measures adopted in states such as Utah, Georgia and South Carolina.

“This ruling today is yet another important victory for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR.  “The Justices have rightly ruled that immigration policy must be set by the federal government.  It is time to turn our energy toward Congress, to create the space for a comprehensive package, since only then can we hope to fix our broken immigration system and create a body of laws that are just and beneficial to all Americans.”

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to begin markup of the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744) in May.  There have been several extensive hearings on immigration, which have provided space for deliberation.  Murguía has testified in two of those hearings.

“Real immigration reform is in the best interest of the nation, socially and economically.  Creating a vehicle for hardworking families to earn their legalization and citizenship must be a centerpiece of our discussion on immigration because it is essential to restoring the rule of law.  Study after study has shown that their full integration would be an economic benefit to the country,” concluded Murguía.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case was expected,” said Sam Brooke, staff attorney for the SPLC, which challenged the law with a separate lawsuit. “The high court invalidated most of Arizona’s immigration law last year, stating unequivocally that immigration is a federal issue and states may not create their own enforcement schemes. That is why the lower courts already blocked Alabama’s law.”

Brooke also noted that today’s decision sends an important message to Congress.

“We need meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform from Washington, D.C.,” he said.  “Hopefully, the lessons we have all learned from HB 56 will motivate Congress to act quickly to address this pressing issue.”

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a similar anti-immigrant law, Arizona’s SB 1070, which served as a model for Alabama’s law. The court ruled that much of the Arizona law was unconstitutional because it interfered with federal authority over immigration. Alabama contended its “harboring and transporting” provision did not interfere with federal authority.

The courts have blocked most of Alabama’s law, including provisions that required K-12 schools to verify the immigration status of newly enrolled immigrants, criminalized failing to register one’s immigration status, invalidated contracts with undocumented individuals and criminalized day laborers’ First Amendment right to solicit work.

Co-counsel on the SPLC case challenging Alabama’s anti-immigrant law include the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, the National Immigration Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus, the Asian American Justice Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network and LatinoJustice-PRLDEF.

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