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US: Victory for Rights in Alabama

WASHINGTON - A decision by a federal appeals court to block two major provisions of Alabama’s immigrant law is a significant victory not just for immigrants but for the rights of all residents of Alabama, Human Rights Watch said today.

On March 8, 2012, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, US v. Alabama, and Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley, enjoined two key provisions of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer Citizen and Protection Act: one that barred Alabama courts from enforcing contracts with unauthorized immigrants and another that barred the state from entering into “business transactions” with unauthorized immigrants.

“The federal court’s ruling on Alabama’s immigrant law is an important step toward ensuring that the basic rights of unauthorized immigrants and their families in Alabama are protected,” said Alison Parker, US Program director at Human Rights Watch. “Many immigrants are longtime Alabama residents and contribute significantly to the life and economy of the state.

Human Rights Watch in its 2011 report, “No Way to Live,” documented numerous ways in which these two provisions had threatened unauthorized immigrants and their families’ access to everyday necessities and equal protection of the law. In the short time these laws were in effect, state and local agencies declared that unauthorized immigrants could not live in the mobile homes they own, sign up for water and other utilities, or renew licenses on small businesses, while some workers were told the contracts provision blocked them from recovering unpaid wages.

Although other provisions of the Beason-Hammon Act were also previously enjoined, other key provisions that adversely impact the human rights of unauthorized immigrants, children, and minority citizens and legal residents in Alabama remain in effect. The 11th Circuit had previously declined to issue a decision on challenges to the law until the US Supreme Court decides the case on a similar law in Arizona. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in that case, Arizona v. US, on April 25.


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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

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