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5 Ways Alabama's New Anti-Immigrant Law Is Even Worse than Arizona's SB 1070

Alabama's HB 56 combines the harshest provisions of anti-immigrant ordinances and state laws that have been passed in recent years.

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The law makes it illegal to rent housing to undocumented immigrants. Hazleton, Penn., became famous for pioneering restrictive housing ordinances targeting undocumented immigrants, and the ACLU and other groups successfully challenged the town on a similar law. Two weeks ago though, the Supreme Court asked the Third Circuit to reconsider that ruling in light of its recent ruling on an Arizona employer-sanctions law, because both the Hazleton and the Arizona case dealt with employer sanctions. 

“I don’t think it has any bearing on the larger issues in Hazleton, especially on the question of whether rental housing is preempted by federal law,” Malhotra said.

Like Arizona’s SB 1070, Alabama’s HB 56 turned police officers into federal immigration authorities by requiring them to investigate immigration status if they pull someone over and have “reasonable suspicion” to believe a person is undocumented. Immigrant rights groups warn that this provision makes racial profiling far too easy for law enforcement officers. The law also allows Alabama to hold people in custody while authorities determine their immigration status. 

Immigration rights advocates have challenged similar provisions in Arizona and Utah’s laws by arguing that states do not have the right to make and enforce their own immigration laws under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says that immigration enforcement falls under the purview of the federal government.

The Alabama law makes certain contracts that undocumented immigrants sign unenforceable. Johnson said this is likely aimed at diluting the legal rights of undocumented immigrants who want to file suit if, say, they’re denied wages that they’ve been promised or payment for goods and services they’ve sold and want to bring a lawsuit against someone else. 

“The aim is to make it economically not viable for immigrants to do anything,” Johnson said. Both he and Malhotra said there were possible preemption issues with this provision.

Julianne Hing is co-editor of the ColorLines magazine blog, RaceWire, and editorial assistant of ColorLines magazine.

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