The Fight Over H.B. 56

By Joe Vena

A new immigration law that was recently passed in Alabama is under scrutiny by the Obama administration, who has asked a federal appeals court to block it from going into effect.

According to the administration, the law, known as H.B. 56, “invites discrimination against many foreign-born citizens and lawfully present aliens.”

An emergency motion was filed by the Justice Department Friday. It asks the 11th Circuit U.S. Court, based in Atlanta, to “quickly issue a temporary injunction, until the larger questions over the measure’s constitutionality can be addressed,” according to

H.B. 56’s possibility of interfering with the federal government’s power over all immigration matters is the issue at hand. Alabama state officials argue that the law does not violate civil rights.

Federal judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn had already temporarily blocked enforcement of certain aspects of the law last month, including one that said that illegal immigrants in the state are not permitted to “knowingly apply for work, solicit work in a public or private place, or perform work as an employee or independent.”

The law has other adversaries besides the federal government, including church leaders and the American Civil Liberties Union, who have filed their own personal lawsuits against the state.

“H.B. 56 creates a panoply of new state offenses that criminalize, among other things, an alien’s failure to comply with federal registration requirements that were enacted pursuant to Congress’s exclusive power to regulate immigration,” stated a brief from the federal government.

Formal responses from state officials are expected to be made to the Obama administration’s action son. A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit will then allot a decision on the injunction request.

Alabama officials agree that the law would have not have been necessary, however, “if the federal government would have done its job and enforced the laws dealing with this problem. However, they have failed to do that,” says Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who signed the law in June.