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State Anti-Immigrant Laws Show the Need for Congressional Action

On March 8, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit enjoined Sections 27 and 30 of Alabama’s anti-immigration law, HB 56, until resolution of the appeals of the Arizona law, which is set to come before the Supreme Court next month.    Section 27 relates to the prohibition on most private contracts with undocumented people while Section 30 makes it a felony for an undocumented person to transact business with the state government.

Due to staunch opposition, well attended protests and finally, a just interpretation of the law, there are only 2 lingering provisions of the most harsh state immigration law enacted to date.  Local police are still required to check the immigration status of anyone they lawfully stop.  In addition, as of April 1, 2012, all employers must verify work authorization using the error prone E-Verify system and they are prohibited from knowingly hiring unauthorized workers.

At least 5 lower courts are waiting to rule on similar anti-immigrant state legislation until the Supreme Court rules on the Arizona law case.     On April 26, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments on the Arizona law and a ruling is expected before the end of the term in June.   As evidenced by the 11th Circuit, lower courts are reticent to rule on the constitutionality of a provision when the Supreme Court will provide a definitive ruling in a matter of months. 

Matters of immigration are within the sole purview of the US Congress.  Many immigrant-rights coalitions fear that the Supreme Court decision in this case will cause a domino effect across the country.  If the Court upholds the law or parts of it, lower courts may rule on the cases before them accordingly.  States will begin to make their own immigration laws as they perceive to be consistent with the Court’s finding.   Supreme Court authored or tweaked legislation is not the ideal; nor is it representative of the separation of powers and the checks an