Center for American Progress

STATEMENT: CAP on Federal District Judge Ruling to Uphold Alabama’s “Papers Please” Law
Press Statement

STATEMENT: CAP on Federal District Judge Ruling to Uphold Alabama’s “Papers Please” Law

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Center for American Progress issued the following statement on yesterday’s legal opinion upholding provisions of Alabama’s anti-immigrant legislation H.B. 56:

In a twisted legal opinion that would inspire the envy of a circus contortionist, U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn upheld the most extreme and controversial provisions of Alabama’s anti-immigrant legislation, known by its bill number as H.B. 56.

By misrepresenting binding Supreme Court precedent, ignoring the plain language of the Alabama statute, and rejecting the sound legal analysis of four other federal district judges and a panel of federal appellate judges, she concluded that the U.S. Department of Justice had not met its burden in seeking to enjoin the central provisions of H.B. 56.

Among other things, Judge Blackburn effectively concluded that Alabama could:

– Require schools to check the immigration status of their students and their 
  parents (in direct contravention of binding Supreme Court precedent)

– Require the state’s police officers to ask for immigration papers from anyone they
  come in contact with who looks or sounds foreign (despite numerous other courts 
  concluding that such policies are preempted by federal law)

– Create a crime for failing to carry registration documents (in violation of Supreme
  Court precedent)

– Mandate the indefinite jailing of any undocumented immigrant driving without a
  license (almost certainly a constitutional due process violation)

These legal conclusions are so extreme and such an outlier from rulings on similar cases that they would be laughable if not so dangerous. While we do not believe they will hold up to further judicial scrutiny on appeal, keeping these measures intact even temporarily will continue to fuel the fear in immigrant communities and embolden the purveyors of ugly rhetoric and incendiary claims.

Alabama deserves our collective scorn and reproach, but blame for this situation extends more widely. Congress’s paralysis on reforming our immigration laws has practically invited this rebel yell from Alabama. It’s high time Congress stepped up to the plate and delivered a realistic, humane solution to a national problem.

Forty-eight years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from an Alabama jail that “[i]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Driven by “anti-otherness,” Alabama and other states are trying to replace that single garment with an ugly patchwork quilt of unjust anti-immigrant laws. If Congress doesn’t act soon, this quilt threatens to smother the nation’s core values and destroy the social progress Dr. King and millions of others marched to achieve.

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To speak to CAP experts on this topic, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202-481-8181 or [email protected].