There is more good news today in the fight against illegal immigration at the state level (and bad news for the Obama Administration’s policy against enforcement of immigration laws).

This afternoon, federal district court Judge Sharon Blackburn in Alabama issued an opinion refusing the Obama Administration’s request that the court enjoin (that is, prevent from going into force) large portions of the comprehensive and controversial Alabama immigration law (H.B. 56). Recall that the Obama Justice Department (DOJ) had filed a complaint against the State of Alabama in federal court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. DOJ claimed that various provisions of H.B. 56 were preempted by federal law and therefore violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

However, the legal landscape regarding preemption in the area of immigration law changed dramatically when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting on May 26, 2001. As we wrote here, the high court upheld an Arizona state law that forced employers to use the E-Verify system and revoked the business licenses of employers who knowingly hired illegal immigrants. Alabama’s new law has similar provisions.

The Department of Justice also argued in that case that federal immigration law and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution preempted the State of Arizona from taking such actions, but the DOJ lost that argument.

It is against that backdrop that Judge Blackburn issued her 115-page opinion today, in which she held that the Justice Department  did not meet the legal requirements for a preliminary injunction on various provisions of H.B. 56. Specifically, she denied the motion for the preliminary injunction on:

  • Section 10: which makes willful failure to carry alien registration documents as required under federal law a misdemeanor under Alabama law ;
  • Section 12(a): that requires a law enforcement officer to make a reasonable attempt, when practicable, to determine the citizenship and immigration status of a person stopped, detained, or arrested when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States;
  • Section 18: which amends Alabama law regarding driving without a license and requires officers who arrest a person without a license to make reasonable efforts to determine the person’s citizenship;
  • Section 27: that bars Alabama courts from enforcing contracts with a person who is an illegal alien;
  • Section 28: which requires every public elementary school and secondary school in Alabama to determine if an enrolling student was born outside of the United States or is a child of an illegal alien; and,
  • Section 30: that makes it a felony for an illegal alien to enter into a business transaction with the State of Alabama or any political subdivision thereof.

The federal court granted the federal government’s motion for a preliminary motion on four sections of H.B. 56, including provisions that made it a misdemeanor for illegal aliens to work; for someone to harbor, encourage, or transport an illegal alien; which forbid employers from claiming any wages paid to an illegal alien as business tax deductions; and that allowed civil suits against employers for hiring illegal aliens.

The Administration can appeal Blackburn’s ruling, but major portions of Alabama’s new law are now in effect.