Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to not hear a case regarding a controversial Alabama state law involving immigration law. The Alabama law, which was passed in 2011, would have criminalized the acts of transporting or harboring immigrants who are without authorization to be in the United States. The law would have also made it a crime to induce these foreign nationals to enter or live in the state of Alabama.
Per their custom, the Supreme Court justices did not provide a reason for why they declined to hear the case.
Alabama v. United States
If the justices had elected to hear the case, they would have decided an interesting question. In Alabama v. United States, the question before the court was whether Alabama’s state law conflicted with a parallel federal law. Upon request from the Obama administration, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit stopped the enforcement of the state law. In doing so, the Court of Appeals stated that federal immigration law and policy already addresses and provides for many criminal penalties for the actions criminalized by the Alabama law. The court explained that a state’s attempt to legislate in this area of immigration law is prohibited because Congress has already done so.
How the Supreme Court has Treated Similar Cases
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear similar cases involving state immigration-related laws. For example, the Supreme Court reviewed the 2010 controversial Arizona law and ultimately upheld the law’s most contentious provision which requires state police officers to inquire into the lawful status of any person they arrest or stop (if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person may not have legal status in the United States).
However, the Court blocked three other portions of the law, including one provision that would have applied criminal penalties to foreign nationals in the country without legal status who sought work with American employers. The Court found that this provision of the law was pre-empted by federal law, meaning that federal immigration law already addressed this issue sufficiently.
In a different case also involving Arizona, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision, finding that another of the state’s laws was not pre-empted by federal law and therefore could be enforced by the state. Specifically, this provision provided heavy penalties on businesses that hired unauthorized foreign nationals.
The Supreme Court can play a huge role in affecting immigration law and policy. For example, in the Padilla v. Kentucky, the Court decided that defense attorneys in criminal cases must advise their foreign national clients about any possible deportation risks that can result if the foreign national enters a guilty plea. This case has proven to be absolutely critical in safeguarding the rights of foreign nationals.
If the Supreme Court had decided to hear the case in Alabama v. United States, the justices very well could have reversed the Court of Appeals and allowed Alabama to criminalize the aforementioned acts regarding transporting and harboring unauthorized foreign nationals.
Several other states are enacting similarly harsh immigration laws and laws in Georgia and South Carolina are also being challenged in the courts. Check back with our blog to receive the most up-to-date news on these immigration developments.
More Blog Posts:
More States Expected to Exert Control Regarding Illegal Immigration Problems, ImmigRantings, August 3, 2012
Prosecutorial Discretion – Amnesty By No Means, ImmigRantings, May 29, 2012
Immigration Authorities Have Substantially Stepped Up I-9 Compliance Audits, ImmigRantings, April 2, 2013