Alabama Update


Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice outside the state capitolAlabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice outside the state capitolFollowing Arizona's footsteps, Alabama passed the harshest anti-immigrant racial profiling law last summer, making it possible for police to stop, question, and detain anyone they believe to be "reasonably suspicious" of being in the country without legal status.

Soon after, the Department of Justice legally challenged the new law on the basis of "federal preemption" without raising the critical issues and concerns about the discriminatory and ill-spirited nature of the law, and the impacts of racial profiling on immigrant and non-immigrant communities alike. 

Since then, only a few provisions have been blocked by the courts, including:

  • provision making it a misdemeanor crime if someone fails to carry proof of immigration status with them at all times. 
  • provision making it a state crime for unathorized immigrant to look for work as day laborer or independent contractor. 
  • provision invalidating all contracts between unauthorized immigrant and another person.
  • provision requiring people to prove immigration status when entering in "business transaction" with the state of Alabama; in practice, this meant that landlords were shutting off water and electricity to their tenants using this provision as a justification.   

On May 18th, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed HB 658 into law, a bill crafted to tweak some of the provisions in the original HB 56 that hampered business and agriculture in the state, while essentially keeping the spirit of the law in place. In fact, HB 658 expanded certain provisions such as "papers please" to include passengers of any vehicle stopped on "reasonable suspicion" by any law enforcement agency. It also increases criminal penalties for state immigration crimes created under HB 56. 

Communities have organized various actions across the state, including marches and vigils, sending a strong message to lawmakers that with or without HB 56 or HB 658, communities will come together and stand on the side of justice. 

Factsheet on Alabama's HB 56



June 9, 2011  HB 56 is signed into law and scheduled to take effect September 1st. 

July 8, 2011 A coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups in Alabama filed a lawsuit challenging HB 56, including the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA), Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU, MALDEF, Asian Law Caucus, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Immigration Law Center

August 1, 2011 U.S. Department of Justice files a lawsuit in federal court challenging HB 56.

September 2011 Federal judge upholds key provisions of HB 56, including sections 10, 12, 18, 27, 28, and 30 (NY Times 9/28/11; Colorlines 9/29/11)

October 2011 US DOJ and civil rights groups challenge federal court decision, and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals puts additional sections of the law on hold, including the requirement on school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents and the provision that criminalized failure to register with the federal government and carry "papers" at all times.  

March 2012 US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit enjoins additional sections of HB 56, including sections 27 and 30, which restricted undocumented immigrants’ business transactions with public entities and made any contract an undocumented immigrant entered into unenforceable (Colorlines 3/9/12). 

May 2012 Alabama Governor Bentley signs HB 658 into law (LA Times 5/28/12)