An Alabama immigration law that is widely considered the toughest in the nation is being challenged in court by the Obama administration, which contends that the state is overstepping its authority on border enforcement.
"To put it in terms we relate to here in Alabama, you can only have one quarterback in a football game," Joyce White Vance, a federal prosecutor in Alabama, said of the lawsuit the U.S. Justice Department brought Monday (August 1), according to The Birmingham News . "In immigration, the federal government is the quarterback."
Like an immigration law in Arizona that the Obama administration also is challenging, the Alabama measure allows local law enforcement officers to ask about the immigration status of those they stop. But, as The New York Times detailed earlier this year, the Alabama law — which was due to go into effect next month — goes significantly further :
"It bars illegal immigrants from enrolling in any public college after high school," the paper noted. "It obliges public schools to determine the immigration status of all students, requiring parents of foreign-born students to report the immigration status of their children. The new law requires Alabama's public schools to publish figures on the number of immigrants — both legal and illegal — who are enrolled and on any costs associated with the education of illegal immigrant children. The measure, known as H.B. 56, also makes it a crime to knowingly rent housing to an illegal immigrant. It bars businesses from taking tax deductions on wages paid to unauthorized immigrants."
In challenging Alabama's law, the Justice Department said it cannot allow states to set their own immigration policies, particularly when those policies clash with federal law.
"Today's action makes clear that setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility that cannot be addressed through a patchwork of state immigration laws," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement . "The department is committed to evaluating each state immigration law and making decisions based on the facts and the law. To the extent we find state laws that interfere with the federal government's enforcement of immigration law, we are prepared to bring suit, as we did in Arizona."