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Birmingham News (Alabama)

Opponents of Anti-Immigration Laws Encouraged by Georgia Ruling

David White

David Barrera, 16, an undocumented immigrant, joins students protesting the bill last month in Douglas County, Ga. (Photo: David Goldman, AP)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Isabel Rubio, executive director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, said she hoped a federal judge's decision to temporarily block parts of Georgia's strict new law targeting illegal immigration foreshadows such a move by a judge when Alabama's immigration law is challenged in federal court.

"We feel the decision in Georgia is a good decision. We hope to have similar results in Alabama," Rubio said.

Georgia's became the latest in a string of state laws that have been at least temporarily stopped by legal challenges. All or parts of similar laws in Arizona, Utah and Indiana also have been blocked by federal judges.

Alabama lawmakers early this month passed an immigration bill that supporters said was modeled after Arizona's immigration law, which was passed last year. Gov. Robert Bentley signed the bill into law. The law says many of its provisions will take effect Sept. 1.

Olivia Turner, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said that group and others plan to file suit before Sept. 1 to try to block Alabama's law from taking effect.

"These Arizona copycat laws are simply not withstanding the scrutiny of the courts," Turner said. "The Georgia ruling is just another signal that the Alabama law really can't withstand scrutiny."

The sponsor of Alabama's law, Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said portions of the Georgia law that the federal judge blocked, at least temporarily, from taking effect were similar to provisions in Alabama's law.

But he predicted most of the immigration laws in Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and other states ultimately will be held to be constitutional. "I feel confident that a lot of these or most of these laws will be upheld when they reach the (U.S.) Supreme Court," Hammon said.

He said the purpose of Alabama's law is "to deter illegal immigrants from coming to the state of Alabama and prevent those who are already here from putting down roots."

"This is a job-protection bill," Hammon said. ''We must open up jobs for our citizens and legal workers in this state. This will drastically help our unemployment level."

Spokeswoman Suzanne Webb in Attorney General Luther Strange's office, when asked if Monday's ruling could have a bearing on Alabama's immigration law, replied, ''We are reviewing the judge's order and have no additional comments at this time."

Under Alabama's law, a police officer stopping a person on a possible violation of another law would be required to make "a reasonable attempt," when practicable, to determine the citizenship and immigration status of the person "where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States."

Officers would have to contact federal officials to check if the person was in the United States legally. Someone found to not be in Alabama legally could be convicted of willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document, a crime punishable by a $100 fine and 30 days in jail.

The law also says it will make it a crime, punishable by as much as a year in jail, for a person to:

--- Conceal, harbor or shield an illegal immigrant anywhere in Alabama if the concealing person knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that the immigrant was in the United States illegally.

--- Transport an illegal immigrant "in furtherance of the unlawful presence of the alien in the United States" if the person providing the transportation knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that the immigrant was in the United States illegally.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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