September 29, 2011 / 11:51 PM / 6 years ago

Critics of tough Alabama immigration law appeal

* Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama leads appeal

* Law’s supporters also vow to continue court fight

By Peggy Gargis and Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Ala, Sept 29 (Reuters) - A coalition of civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups filed an appeal on Thursday of a federal judge’s ruling that let stand much of Alabama’s tough new immigration law.

The groups, along with President Barack Obama’s administration and church leaders, have sought to block what is widely seen as the toughest state crackdown on illegal immigration.

Chief U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ruled on Wednesday that Alabama could begin requiring public schools to determine the legal residency of children. [ID:nS1E78R1FO]

She also gave the green light for police to detain people suspected of being in the United States illegally if they cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and fellow Republican lawmakers hailed the judge’s decision as a major win in their efforts to curb illegal immigration in their state. Federal judges have previously blocked key parts of immigration laws passed in Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Indiana.

The Obama administration argues that the U.S. Constitution bars states from adopting immigration measures that conflict with federal laws.

Conservatives complain that the federal government has failed to sufficiently stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the country, forcing states to take action to protect their borders and jobs.

The plaintiffs group in the appeal, led by the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, also filed an emergency motion on Thursday seeking to keep some disputed parts of the law from taking effect pending a review by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Supporters of the law also have vowed to continue the court fight, with the aim of getting the entire law in effect.

Blackburn temporarily barred the state from making it a crime to knowingly transport or harbor an illegal immigrant or prohibiting illegal immigrants from attending its public colleges. (Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Greg McCune)

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