Significant Victory for Alabama Immigrants as Legal Settlement Delivers Final Blow to HB56 (Nov 2013)

What was arguably the most reprehensible state anti-immigrant law in the country - Alabama’s HB 56 - has finally been defeated! Last month, a settlement was reached in two lawsuits challenging Alabama’s infamous law which sought to make life so difficult for the undocumented that they would leave the state of their own volition.  The terms agreed to by the State of Alabama put an end to the two lawsuits (Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley and United States v. Alabama) by permanently blocking numerous sections of HB 56 that had been temporarily halted by earlier federal district court decisions, upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and declined for a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court.  As a result of the settlement, the following provisions of Alabama’s law have been permanently blocked from implementation:

  • Section 10 which made it a state crime to fail to register one’s immigration status;
  • Section 11(a) which made it a state crime for undocumented immigrants to accept or solicit work;
  • Sections 11(f) and (g) which made it a state crime for day laborers to solicit work on the street or for drivers to pick up or hire day laborers;    
  • Section 13  which made it a state crime to provide shelter or transportation or to rent property to individuals without immigration documents;
  • Section 27 which prevented unlawfully present individuals from accessing state courts in order to enforce contracts; and
  • Section 28 which required public elementary and secondary schools to verify the immigration status of new students.

     In addition, the settlement limits how the State of Alabama can interpret the controversial “show me your papers” provisions of the law which had been in effect since 2011.  Section 12 permitted local law enforcement to inquire into the immigration status of individuals they had lawfully stopped or arrested for any violation if they had a reasonable suspicion they were unlawfully present.  Similarly, Section 18 permitted state and local police to check the immigration status of those found to be driving without a license.  Under the settlement agreement, Alabama cannot detain people solely to verify their immigration status.  As a result of this clarification, the plaintiffs agreed to dismiss their challenges to these sections. 

     The fate of Alabama’s law follows similar outcomes in Arizona, South Carolina, and Georgia and continues to illustrate that state laws with the goal of “enforcement by attrition” are unconstitutional, discriminatory, devastating to state economies, and destructive to our communities.  Immigration advocates like Birmingham pastor Angie Wright hope that the federal government will also “learn from the lessons of HB 56 and enact just, humane immigration reform that will withstand the tests of Constitutionality and conscience.”



This document was prepared in November 2013 for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. For questions, please contact CLINIC’s State & Local Advocacy Attorney Jen Riddle at or (301) 565-4807.

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