Officials probe Alabama immigration law's impact on rights

BIRMINGHAM, Ala Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:01pm EST

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Reuters) - Two Justice Department officials said they returned to Alabama on Monday as "boots on the ground" to sift through some of the more than 1,000 e-mails and calls received on a hotline fielding concerns about the state's tough new immigration law.

"The more we hear, the more concerned we are about the impact of Alabama's immigration law on a wide range of federal rights," U.S. Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez told reporters at a briefing in Birmingham.

Perez, who leads the department's Civil Rights Division, said he and fellow Assistant Attorney General Tony West would meet with people in the business, nonprofit and faith communities to learn more about the complaints received.

He said the department continued to be concerned about students who were dropping out or frequently absent from school, as well as claims of racial profiling and some employers using the law as an excuse to not pay workers.

"Employers who continue to use (the law) as an escape valve should know that we're here, that we will prosecute," Perez said. "That is impermissible. Period."

The attorneys said their investigation into the law's impact was separate from an ongoing legal challenge by the Obama administration and a coalition of civil rights groups seeking to block it.

The law, which passed by large margins in both chambers of the Republican-led legislature earlier this year, has been described by supporters and opponents as the nation's toughest state crackdown on illegal immigration.

In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, halted a controversial provision that would allow Alabama to require public schools to determine the legal residency of children upon enrollment.

But the court ruled the state could continue to authorize police to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally if they cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.

Federal judges have blocked key parts of other immigration laws passed in Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Indiana. The Justice Department was also seeking to halt parts of South Carolina's new immigration law, which is set to take effect in January.

West said the state-by-state approach was making immigration problems worse, not better.

"That kind of patchwork affects the quality of cooperation between state and federal law enforcement, making it harder to enforce immigration law consistently and efficiently throughout the country," West said.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)

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Comments (4)
Majick1 wrote:
Solve the problem and pass strict Federal Immigration laws. Stop courting Hispanics and printing everything in Spanish for them. If they can’t speak the language they cannot be citizens, if they are not citizens they can’t collect Welfare, Food Stamps or use Medicade. Enforce the laws.
I realize there are illegal immigrants who are contributing to society and we don’t know they are illegal. We need to set some standards to get these fine people on the fast track to citizenship. For the most part illegal immigrants are a drain on our financial resources.

Nov 28, 2011 11:50pm EST  --  Report as abuse
reivers wrote:
As usual, the federal government refuses to deal with an issue and then complains vociferously when individual states are forced to take action in support and defense of their citizens. Everyone in this country, whether a citizen, a visitor or a worker who is here either legally or illegally is entitled to the rights and protections afforded by our constitution. In the case of those here illegally those rights and protections extend to fair and humane treatment and transportation to the border. Above and beyond fair and humane treatment the ancillary benefits of this country are reserved for those here legally either by birth or legal structure. As severe as it may be the ability to avoid the laws of this country for an extended period of time does not negate the fact that the law is broken; risk always bears consequence. This situation requires action by the federal government to enact widespread laws an policies in relation to immigration and worker visas but until that step is taken individual states can and should be expected to act in its absence. As a nation we should welcome individuals who desire to be solid and productive members of our society and in that action take into consideration evidence of that intent; however, blanket acceptance based upon endurance is not appropriate.

Nov 29, 2011 7:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
AchillesII wrote:
“That kind of patchwork affects the quality of cooperation between state and federal law enforcement, making it harder to enforce immigration law consistently and efficiently throughout the country,” West said.”

This last paragraph kind of say it all.

The problem is, is that the Federal Government HAS NOT enforced immigration laws. Necessitating some of the States to pick up the slack.

Nov 29, 2011 1:10pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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