Solidarity Between Immigrants, Civil Rights Marchers After Ala. HB 56 Ruling

Groups opposed to Alabama's HB 56 immigration march participate in a protest.

Immigrants in Alabama are pushing back against the controversial immigration law HB 56, and it’s working.

In the same week as thousands of Latinos are marching with African American leaders to commemorate the bloody civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery that took place 47 years ago, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked two more sections of HB 56 on Thursday.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined Sections 27 and 30 of the state law until legal challenges brought by the federal government and a coalition of church and civil rights groups are resolved.

The state legislature passed HB 56, a law targeting undocumented immigrants in June 2011, and it immediately gained notoriety as the toughest immigration law in the country. In September, Federal Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn issued preliminary injunctions against a few provisions of the law, including one prohibiting undocumented immigrants from attending public universities, another that outlawed harboring or transporting undocumented immigrants and a third that outlawed stopping for day laborers if a motor vehicle blocked traffic. But Judge Blackburn left intact two of the most controversial elements of the law.

That changed on Thursday. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction against HB 56′s sections which made it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to do business with the state and prevented courts from enforcing many contracts involving undocumented immigrants. This part of the law had far reach and led to the cutting of electricity, water and gas services for some immigrants. In November, the non-partisan Immigration Policy Center that does research on the role of immigrants in U.S. society released a report detailing the grave implications of sections 27 and 30 of HB 56.

“These two sections were both part of the legislative scheme to make life so difficult for immigrant families that they would ‘deport themselves,’” said Cecillia Wang, Director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued against the provisions. “But the 11th court recognizes that this is a serious constitutional problem,” she said, “and now the majority of the unconstitutional provisions of the law have been enjoined.”

The news ricocheted through twitter and the immigration rights blogosphere. Dan Werner, Deputy Legal Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who was attending the civil rights march, tweeted:

VICTORY! Fed app court halts enforcement of contracts & business sections of #hb56. Cheers erupt across the march. #selma2012#CrisisAL

In a show of solidarity between the African American and Latino communities, immigrant rights and opposition to HB 56 are focal points of this year’s march in Alabama.

The injunctions are temporary because the three-judge panel said that it won’t give a ruling on Alabama and Georgia’s immigration laws until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision on a federal challenge to SB 1070, Arizona’s tough immigration law. The Court will hear those arguments on April 25. Wang said she was confident that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would permanently enjoin all the provisions of the law which the federal government is challenging, because the Supreme Court has said that states should not be in the business of enforcing federal immigration law.