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What is the Status of Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Legislation?

 
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After a series of legal battles, federal courts have blocked many of the harshest provisions of Alabama’s H.B. 56 and H.B. 658. Unfortunately, some parts of these laws remain in effect, including the following provisions:

  • Undocumented immigrants cannot enroll in public universities and colleges and are  not eligible for financial aid in Alabama.
  • People are required to prove they are in the United States legally in order to obtain or renew a driver’s license, register a vehicle, or obtain a business license, commercial license, or professional license.
  • All employers must use the E-Verify system to determine whether new hires are eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Law enforcement officers are required to check the immigration status of people arrested and booked into jail.
  • Undocumented immigrants convicted of violating a state law must be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Alabama Department of Homeland Security.
  • Law enforcement officers are required to check the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect is in the country without authorization. However, they cannot detain or hold someone, nor prolong detention, solely to check immigration status. 

As a result of court decisions, the following provisions of H.B. 56 and H.B. 658 have been amended.  Currently:

  • Proof of lawful status is not necessary to pay state or local taxes, register a mobile home, apply for a marriage license, rent housing, enforce contracts in court, or enroll children in elementary or secondary school.
  • It is not illegal to provide a ride or rent housing to an undocumented immigrant.
  • Attorneys do not need to report their clients’ immigration status to state or federal officials.
  • People in Alabama can hire and work as day laborers.
  • Passengers in cars are not required to answer questions about immigration status. Drivers may only be asked about their immigration status if they fail to present a valid driver’s license.
  • Law enforcement officers cannot stop someone for the sole purpose of checking his or her immigration status or prolong an individual’s detention any longer than the stop otherwise requires in order to check immigration status.

Some areas of the law remain in dispute. H.B. 658 required Alabama to post publically on its website a list of all undocumented immigrants who were detained for a state law violation and appeared in court.  Alabama state officials have said they do not currently have any plans to start maintaining such a list. However, a lawsuit is underway in federal district court challenging the legality of this mandate. The suit alleges that the list would facilitate private discrimination and violate the Supremacy and Due Process clauses of the Constitution. A federal judge in May denied the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Finally, while it is not legal to deny children access to elementary or secondary education based on immigration status, there are reports that this may still be occurring in Alabama. The Southern Poverty Law Center notified Alabama’s state superintendent in May that school districts are still asking new students for birth certificates and social security numbers, without indicating that supplying such documentation is voluntary. The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education have recently issued guidance clarifying what documentation schools may ask for from parents.

 

 

 

 

This document was prepared in July 2014 by CLINIC Advocacy Intern Kelly Kidwell Hughes. It is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. For questions, please contact State & Local Advocacy Attorney Jen Riddle at jriddle@cliniclegal.org or (301) 565-4807.