Alabama is trying to outdo Arizona with the toughest immigration laws in the land, but the Justice Department isn't having it.
The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Alabama's new controversial immigration law, blocking Alabama on grounds similar to its legal battle with Arizona over the state's law that allowed state law enforcement to detain individuals they believed were illegal immigrants, Fox News reported today.
In both Alabama and Arizona, the Justice Department argued that the states overstepped their authority by trying to enforce something that is strictly a federal responsibility: immigration enforcement.
Governor Robert Bentley signed the Alabama law in June, which is set to take effect in Sept. 1. The law would require public schools to determine the citizenship status of students — a caveat not included in an Arizona law that had been at the forefront of states trying to curb illegal immigration, Reuters reported.
Also under the Alabama law, police must detain someone they suspect of being in the country illegally if the person cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.
"We have a real problem with illegal immigration in this country," Gov. Bentley said after signing the law. "I campaigned for the toughest immigration laws, and I'm proud of the Legislature for working tirelessly to create the strongest immigration bill in the country."
The Alabama law has already faced lawsuits from civil rights groups and religious leaders.
"This law is an outrageous throw-back to the pre-Civil Rights era," said Cecillia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project.
The Alabama bill passed the state House of Representatives and Senate by large margins before landing on Bentley's desk.
Some farmers in the U.S. South are worried that new immigration restrictions could limit access to farm workers. But Gene Armstrong, mayor of Allgood, Alabama, a small community where the Hispanic population has grown to almost 50 percent, wasn't.
"We managed in the past without illegal immigrants to pick the tomatoes here, and I haven't heard anyone say that if we sent them all home nobody would be left to do that work," Armstrong told Reuters.