Alabama Immigration Law: Court Blocks State From Checking Undocumented Student Status

Courtney Williams's picture
Monday, October 17, 2011

Armando Cardenas says he has thought about leaving Alabama because of the possibility of being arrested as an illegal immigrant and the hostility he feels from residents.

But now that a federal appeals court has sided with the Obama administration and dealt a blow to the state's toughest-in-the-nation immigration law, Cardenas said he will stay for at least a while longer.

"It's not easy to leave everything you have worked so hard for," Cardenas said after the appeals court blocked public schools from checking the immigration status of students.

The decision from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said police can't charge immigrants who are unable to prove their citizenship, but it let some parts of the law stand, giving supporters a partial victory. The decision was only temporary and a final ruling isn't expected for months, after judges can review more arguments.

Unlike in other states where immigration crackdowns have been challenged in the courts, Alabama's law was left largely in effect for about three weeks, long enough to frighten Hispanics and drive them away from the state. Construction businesses said Hispanic workers had quit showing up for jobs and schools reported that Latino students stopped coming to classes.

While the long-range implications of the decision remain to be seen, immigrants celebrated the judges' ruling. Word spread quickly through the state's Hispanic community as Spanish-language radio stations aired the news.

"When I listened to that, I started crying. I called my friends and said, `Listen to the radio.' We're all happy," said Abigail, an illegal immigrant who didn't want her last name used because she feared arrest.

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