By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The National Immigration Law Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit against the State of Alabama on behalf of four illegal aliens accused of fishing without a license on Thursday.
The coalition of civil rights groups say that the case is just the latest example of the State of Alabama attempting to target and drive out illegal immigrants. The coalition of civil rights organizations are charging that a portion of Alabama’s anti-illegal immigration law requiring state officials to post an online list of immigrants who may be undocumented is a violation of the alleged illegal immigrants rights because it provides them with no way to contest their inclusion in the database.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division on behalf of four Latin immigrants in Montgomery County who were arrested for allegedly fishing without a license, a misdemeanor offense under Alabama law.
Nora Preciado with the National Immigration Law Center said, “While the rest of the country focuses on how best to make Americans at heart become Americans on paper, Alabama continues to tread down a discriminatory, anti-immigrant path. This lawsuit proves once again that Alabama’s policies aren’t just unconstitutional, but also out of touch with the political mainstream.”
Justin Cox with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project said, “Senator Scott Beason (R from Gardendale) should never have been allowed to hijack the state legislature with his anti-immigrant agenda. This law violates privacy laws and basic constitutional rights, as well as conflicts with fundamental American values of fairness and equality. Instead of moving forward with a mean-spirited law that is doomed to fail, Alabama should join the rest of the country and focus on common-sense reforms that benefit citizens and immigrants alike.”
Kristi Graunke with the Southern Poverty Law Center said, “This part of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law represents an unfortunate effort to bully and intimidate immigrants into leaving Alabama. It is designed to permanently brand, humiliate and otherwise make life difficult for immigrants regardless of status. It conflicts with federal privacy requirements and burdens the already cash-strapped state court system. Sadly, laws like this show that Alabama has yet to turn away from the devastation its anti-immigrant laws have caused.”
The provision which Cox called a “scarlet letter” is part of 2012’s HB 658, which is a revision of 2011’s, HB 56 (the strongest anti-illegal immigration bill passed by any state legislature). Section 5 of HB 658 requires that the state of Alabama compile and post on a public website the names and other information clearly identifying certain immigrants unable to prove their legal status when they are detained on any state charge, no matter how minor, and appear in state court. According to the attorneys statement the plaintiffs in this case would fall within this requirement. The civil rights groups claim that this provision is unconstitutional.
The law suit claims that the law requires the posting of private information that the federal government has declared confidential and not subject to public disclosure. According to the written statement, once a person is on the list which is maintained by the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts, the law provides no means to remove their name or change their information if the listing is inaccurate or the person obtains permission to live in the United States – even if the person becomes a citizen.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already blocked key provisions of Alabama’s original anti-illegal immigration law. The civil rights groups maintain that the revision mandating the “black list” also violates federal law, and encourages discrimination.
President Barack Obama has relaxed already lax federal enforcement of American immigration law and has proposed legislation that would provide a legalization and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.