ACLU Files Lawsuit Charging Alabama’s Racial Profiling Law is Unconstitutional

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. ― The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit Friday charging that Alabama’s anti-immigration law is unconstitutional and endangers public safety, invites racial profiling and interferes with federal law.

The lawsuit charges that the law, HB 56, unconstitutionally subjects Alabama residents to unlawful search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The lawsuit also charges the law unconstitutionally deters immigrant families from enrolling their children in public schools; bars many legal immigrants from attending public colleges or universities in Alabama; restricts the right to enter into contracts; and interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters, in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU charges that the Alabama law is even more restrictive than the Arizona law it was inspired by.

“Alabama has brazenly enacted this law despite the fact that federal courts have stopped each and every one of these discriminatory laws from going into effect,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Just as we’ve stopped similar draconian laws in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia from going into effect, we will do so here in Alabama as well.”

The Alabama law requires school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents; authorizes police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops; and criminalizes Alabama residents for ordinary, everyday interactions with undocumented individuals.

Alabama is the fifth state to enact a law modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070, parts of which went into effect last year after key provisions of the law were blocked by a federal judge. Following ACLU and NILC lawsuits, federal courts have also blocked implementation of similar laws passed in Utah, Indiana and Georgia. The coalition has announced plans to legally challenge the latest Arizona-inspired law passed in South Carolina.

Plaintiff Matt Webster and his wife are in the process of adopting two boys and establishing the children’s lawful presence based on their American citizenship. Under this law, Mr. Webster would be criminally liable for transporting his own adopted children.

An organizational plaintiff on the case, the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, or “HICA”, is a nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of services, including court advocacy for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, a 24/7 Spanish hotline for immigrant victims of crime, immigration legal services, financial literacy, workforce development, volunteer income tax assistance, English and civics classes, advocacy, community education, and leadership development and training to the host community. Under this law, HICA will be at risk of criminal prosecution for providing these services to the immigrant community in Alabama.

The law has also raised concerns from faith-based organizations in the state. Another plaintiff, Scott Douglas of the Greater Birmingham Ministries, provides charitable services to Alabama communities and fears that this law criminalizes acts of charity and service so fundamental to his faith.

Along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the coalition filing the lawsuit includes the ACLU of Alabama, the National Immigration Law Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus and the Asian American Justice Center. The law is set to take effect September 1.

The complaint can be found at: www.aclu.org/