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HICA, et al. v Robert Bentley, Luther Strange, et al.

Alabama passed an extreme anti-immigrant law in June 2011. The law, commonly known as HB 56, threatened to chill children’s access to public schools by requiring school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents; authorized police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops; and criminalized Alabamians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals.

The SPLC led a coalition of civil rights groups in filing a federal class action lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional. The lawsuit charged that the law would subject Alabamians – including countless U.S. citizens and noncitizens with permission to be in the United States – to racial profiling as well as unlawful interrogations, searches, seizures and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

An settlement agreement reached in October 2013 essentially gutted the law by blocking its most egregious provisions. The agreement also significantly limited racial profiling under the law’s “papers, please” provisions – ensuring that police would not be allowed to detain someone during a traffic stop solely to check their immigration status.

Portions of the law that had been temporarily enjoined by federal courts were permanently blocked under the agreement. The state also agreed to pay the coalition’s attorney fees and costs, as required by federal law.

The following parts of the law were permanently blocked:

  • Section 10, which criminalized failing to register one’s immigration status (initially blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit);
  • Section 28, which required schools to verify the immigration status of newly enrolled K-12 students (initially blocked by the 11th Circuit);
  • Section 13, which criminalized giving a ride or renting to someone who is undocumented (initially blocked by the U.S. District Court in Birmingham);
  • Section 11(a), which criminalized the solicitation of work by unauthorized immigrants (initially blocked by the U.S. District Court in Birmingham);
  • Sections 11(f) and (g), which criminalized day laborers’ First Amendment right to solicit work (initially blocked by the U.S. District Court in Birmingham); and
  • Section 27, which infringed on the ability of individuals to contract with someone who was undocumented (initially blocked by the 11th Circuit).

Alabama’s law was inspired by an anti-immigrant law passed by Arizona in 2010. South Carolina and Georgia passed similar laws in 2011, both of which were challenged by the SPLC in federal court. Major provisions of those laws were ultimately blocked.

Groups joining the SPLC in filing the lawsuit included the National Immigration Law Center; the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and ACLU Foundation of Alabama; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; LatinoJustice-PRLDEF; Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC; and private attorneys Brian Spears, Freddy Rubio and Ben Bruner.