U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal on Alabama Immigration Law

1038828_u_s__supreme_court_2.jpgIn the last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal for a case involving a controversial Alabama immigration law. As is the court's tradition, the Supreme Court justices did not provide the public with a reason as to why they declined to hear the case.

The case concerned the contentious Alabama law that created new criminal penalties for immigration violations performed within that state. Specifically, in 2011, the Alabama state legislature passed a law that attempted to criminalize harboring or transporting unauthorized immigrants within the state of Alabama. Additionally, the law also criminalized the act of inducing unauthorized immigrants to reside in or enter Alabama.

Almost immediately after the law passed, opponents of its provisions challenged the law in Alabama state court. The central issue in Alabama v. United States became whether the state law was at odds with similar federal laws that addressed the same issues. The case worked its way up to the 11th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. At that stage, the Obama administration stepped in and requested that the circuit judges prevent Alabama from enforcing the law.

The Court of Appeals agreed to do so, and explained that the existing federal immigration laws already outline criminal punishments that were outlawed by the state measure. The judges went on to explain that a state's effort to make legislation affecting this aspect of immigration is unconstitutional because Congress already enacted the necessary legislation, and Congress has the sole authority to do so per the Constitution.

Although the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal in this instance, the court has heard several related cases in recent years. For instance, the court recently reviewed the case involving the 2010 Arizona immigration law that was very similar to the Alabama measure. The court upheld the Arizona law's most controversial provision which obliges police officers to ask about the immigration status of any person the officer arrests or stops (the officer only has to inquire into this issue if he/she has reasonable suspicion that the person is in the U.S. without authorization).

While upholding this provision, the court stopped three other sections of the law from being enforced, such as one section that would have implemented criminal penalties against unauthorized individuals who tried to obtain employment with American companies. The court blocked this provision under the same reason employed by Court of Appeals in the Alabama case - that is, Congress had already sufficiently legislated in that area of immigration law.

Although immigration law is federal and therefore the same from state to state, the Gee Law Firm is well aware that several other states are passing punitive immigration laws. It is very important for foreign nationals to understand all of their rights and obligations under both federal and state laws. Our attorneys are available to explain your legal rights and responsibilities at any time. Contact our office today at 650-293-0270 and speak to a member of our legal team about your case.

Additional Blog Posts

Congress Considers Amending "Temporary Protected Status", Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 21, 2013
Congress Reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 21, 2013

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee