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Supreme Court justices block enforcement of Alabama immigration law

  • Article by: David G. Savage
  • Tribune Washington Bureau
  • April 29, 2013 - 9:46 PM

 

The Supreme Court has blocked Alabama from enforcing a state law that authorized the police to arrest and jail persons who hide or transport illegal immigrants.

By an 8-1 vote, the justices let stand lower court rulings that said enforcing the immigration laws is the job of the federal government, not the states.

Those rulings in turn were based on last year’s Supreme Court ruling that threw out most of Arizona’s strict immigration enforcement law.

Alabama’s state attorney appealed to the high court earlier this year and argued that last year’s decision in the Arizona case did not deal with a provision involving the transporting or concealing of illegal immigrants. But the justices refused to hear the appeal in Alabama v. United States.

The court’s action is a victory for the Obama administration, which had urged the justices to block the state’s law. It is a setback for several states, including South Carolina and Utah, which had adopted similar measures.

“The Supreme Court has rightly struck another nail in the coffin of laws that attempt to sanction racial profiling,” said Karen Tumlin, ­managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. “Alabama’s legislators, both at the state and at the federal level should take note: they, like the rest of the country, should move forward, not backward, to bring our immigration laws in line with our societal and economic needs.”

Justice Antonin Scalia voted to hear the appeal. A spokeswoman for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said Scalia’s vote is a sign that once additional courts have considered the issue, the Supreme Court will grant review.

“Many other states are facing similar litigation, and the lower court in our case was the first federal court of appeals to consider this particular issue,” said spokeswoman Joy Patterson. “Other cases raising the issue from other states are likely to appear at the Supreme Court in the future. Hopefully Justice Scalia’s vote indicates that once those additional courts have weighed in, the Supreme Court will be willing to grant review.”

Court upholds limits on FOIA

Americans do not have a right to obtain public records from states other than their own, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, dealing a setback to businesses and researchers who gather data across the nation.

The unanimous decision upheld laws in Virginia and a handful of other states that restrict the release of some public records to their own citizens.

“This is disappointing. We have a national information economy now, and all sorts of activities depend on data from all 50 states,” said Washington attorney Deepak Gupta, who represented two men who had challenged the “citizens only” provision of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

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