WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked parts of Alabama's and Georgia's immigration-related laws, but allowed both states to keep their so-called “show me your papers” provisions.
The same week, 10 employees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement sued the Obama administration over a program launched Aug. 15 to defer deportation for some young adults who came to the United States as children.
In separate Aug. 20 rulings, the appeals court struck down two sections of Alabama's law and left in place a legal block on pieces of Georgia's law. Both states' requirements for law enforcement officers to ask for immigration documents from anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally were left intact, in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June that upheld a similar provision in Arizona law.
The 11th Circuit said it recognizes that the “show me your papers” provision “invites a host of other problems, namely racial profiling” and could lead to more lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court in its June 25 ruling, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said that provision in the Arizona law didn't on its face conflict with the Constitution or impinge on federal jurisdiction. But Kennedy warned that the key to the provision's survival is that it is not interpreted in a way that prolongs the detention of people who are stopped by police.
The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit said Georgia's attempt to punish people who transport or harbor undocumented immigrants is pre-empted by federal law.
Ruling on the Alabama law, the same three-judge panel court struck down provisions that mirrored two parts of Arizona's law that were struck down by the Supreme Court. The sections would have made it illegal for immigrants to fail to carry immigration documents and criminalized the act of seeking work if the individual lacks a work permit.
Provisions of Alabama's HB 56 were also rejected that would have barred courts from enforcing contracts entered into by undocumented immigrants and required schools to determine the immigration status of students.
The court said the contracts provision violated the Constitution, because it would prevent undocumented immigrants from entering into contracts that would enable people to live in Alabama, and only the federal government has authority to determine someone's immigration status. Opponents of the provision argued that it would mean people could not get leases, utility services and other essential elements of normal life.
When the schools provision took effect in 2011, many children around the state stopped going to school — even if they were U.S. citizens — because parents worried about how the state would use immigration data the schools were supposed to collect.
The 10 ICE workers filed suit in Dallas Aug. 23 saying the administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan violates federal law and would force ICE employees to break the law by refraining from arresting some undocumented immigrants.
They were represented by the Kansas attorney who has helped write many states' recent immigration laws and who is advising the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on immigration policy. Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, said he is representing the ICE workers in his private capacity, not as a state official.
The policy launched Aug. 15 will provide the chance for people between the ages of 15 and 30 who came to the United States at least five years ago and before they turned 16, to apply for prosecutorial discretion that would protect them from being deported for two years. The program includes background checks, no significant criminal record and other prerequisites such as having completed school or being in school. Successful applicants also will receive a federal work permit.
Some private organizations estimate as many as 1.7 million people might be eligible for the program, which carries an application fee of $465.
Kobach is an informal adviser to Romney's campaign and was involved in writing the GOP platform, pushing for provisions, among others, that call for completing a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, ending in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and barring cities from declaring themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.
— By Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service