Sunday, June 12, 2011

Alabama's Tough New Immigration Law Can Withstand Legal Challenges, Experts Say

Alabama's new law cracking down on illegal immigrants will likely survive legal challenges from advocacy groups that say it is unconstitutional and racist, analysts told Fox News. The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, empowers police to arrest people suspected of being an illegal immigrant if they are stopped for another reason and requires businesses and schools to verify whether workers and students are in the country lawfully. It also makes it a crime to knowingly transport or shelter illegal immigrants.

As soon as Republican Gov. Robert Bentley signed the bill into law Thursday, the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center were vowing to defeat it in court. "It is clearly unconstitutional. It's mean-spirited, racist, and we think a court will enjoin it," said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"By signing this bill into law, Gov. Bentley has codified official discrimination in the state of Alabama," said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "We will take action to keep this law from going into effect to ensure that the civil rights and liberties of all Alabamans are protected."

Legal experts told Fox News that they expect the case to head to the Supreme Court where they believe the state will prevail.
"I think the states have the right to do this," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. "I think it will be successful."

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates strict immigration laws, says the one in Alabama is fair. "It does not go too far," he said. "The ACLU will object to anything that involves immigration enforcement."

"There are a lot of different pieces to it but I think probably the most important part is completely fair and very neutral and very effective, is requiring all businesses when they hire someone to check that info, the Social Security number against the federal government online E-verify system. Common sense. It works well."

There are an estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants in Alabama, a nearly fivefold increase from a decade ago, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Alabama isn't the only Southern state cracking down on illegal immigrants. Georgia passed a similar measure a few weeks ago and that law goes into effect July 1. Civil liberties groups have already sued that state in an attempt to block the law.

The Alabama law was modeled on Arizona's. A federal judge blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona's law last year after the Justice Department sued. The case appears headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. A less restrictive law in Utah also was blocked after a lawsuit was filed.

"The states are sick and tired of the federal government basically doing nothing to protect the individual citizens from what is a serious problem," Sekulow said.

Krikorian said these laws send a clear message to illegal immigrants. "The point is to make it as difficult as possible for an illegal alien to put down roots, to make it hard to live a normal life," he said, explaining that not being able to get a job or an apartment makes it less appealing to be an illegal alien.

"So if you are thinking of going there, you think twice, and if you are illegal already, you think seriously about packing up and leaving," he said.


Australian government trying to get tough

THE 274 asylum seekers and crew who have arrived on Christmas Island since the Malaysia policy was announced will be processed in another country, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed yesterday. Mr Bowen said the federal government would stand firm on its policy to close the door, despite uncertainty over Malaysia's acceptance.

Malaysia said yesterday it is considering taking at least some of the asylum seekers who arrived ahead of the swap deal being formally signed, a shift from its previous position.

A Malaysian official said the deal was all but sealed, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees "on board". The UNHCR declined to comment. "We've made it clear that those 300 are not necessarily to be included in the 800 … our position is that they would be processed in a third country," Mr Bowen told ABC Radio.

There is little chance of a speedy deal with Papua New Guinea to reopen the Manus Island centre, as turmoil continues there following the sacking of Foreign Minister Don Polye, the main supporter of a deal.

Mr Bowen said the government was "in discussions with countries across the region" about stopping the people smugglers' trade.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who will travel to Nauru at the weekend with leader Tony Abbott, said there was "a taxpayer funded processing centre on Nauru which can be opened within weeks". He said asylum seekers sent to Nauru would not have to be tagged to avoid caning.

Mr Bowen told ABC Radio he had "said on many occasions" that people transferred to Malaysia would not be regarded as illegal migrants, and he and the Malaysian government had repeatedly guaranteed they would not be caned.

The 4000 refugees brought to Australia under the deal would be mostly Burmese, who "can't afford a people smuggler because they're in very difficult circumstances or they don't want to risk their life", he said.

The Age reported last week that the 800 sent to Malaysia would carry a UNHCR card and would not be classified as illegal immigrants. The federal government will pay for all their costs - including health checks, education, and monitoring by immigration officials. Asylum seekers in Malaysia live in the community "and can move freely", the UNHCR said.

Tomorrow, the UNHCR will launch a research report into alternatives to mandatory detention, highlighting the use of community accommodation to process asylum seekers.

La Trobe University contributed to the research, which found that asylum seekers rarely abscond while waiting for the outcome of a visa application, and rarely abscond from a transit country if they can meet their basic needs legally, are not at risk of being forcibly returned and remain hopeful of their prospects. They are more likely to comply with a negative decision if they have explored all legal options to remain in the country.

A joint parliamentary inquiry, pushed by the Greens, will examine Australia's mandatory detention policy and its alternatives. But it remains the policy of both the government and Coalition.


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