Two weeks after a federal judge largely upheld the nation's harshest anti-immigrant state law, an appeals court stepped in today and blocked two key provisions of Alabama's HB 56 while courts decide the constitutionality of the law.
Alabama, for now, will not be allowed to track the immigration statuses of its public school students and the state will not be allowed to enforce a provision of HB 56 that made it a state crime for people to be caught not carrying proof of their legal status on them.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a civil rights coalition's request for an emergency stay on these two provisions while the courts decide the issue on the law's merits.
"We are pleased that the court blocked these damaging elements of the law," the coalition of civil rights groups that challenged HB 56 said in a statement. They said that other provisions of HB 56 are still being enforced, however, and that every day those are in effect they "exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Alabama."
"In just two weeks that the law has been in effect, families have been fleeing the state, children have been pulled out of schools, and businesses have been put in jeopardy."
Indeed, since the law has been in effect, Alabama schools have reported a marked drop in attendance as immigrant families have fled the state or kept their kids at home. The provision did not make it illegal for undocumented immigrant children to attend school--that right was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1982--but the civil rights coalition argued that the provision had a "chilling" effect that discouraged kids from taking advantage of what was their constitutional right. The Department of Justice has also been looking into the issue.
While today's ruling marks a temporary victory for immigrants, some of HB 56's other harsh provisions are still in effect, including one inspired by Arizona's SB 1070 which mandates that law enforcement officers ask a person for proof of their legal status if they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe that person is in the person illegally. An appeal on Judge Blackburn's ruling is also being considered by the 11th Circuit.