By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: August 1, 2011
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Obama administration is challenging a new Alabama law that would let the police detain people stopped for traffic offenses who are suspected of being in the country illegally, a law described as one of the toughest of its kind nationwide.
The Justice Department filed a complaint on Monday in federal court in Birmingham stating that the state law conflicts with federal law and undermines federal immigration priorities. The lawsuit argues that the state law also expands the opportunities for the police to push immigrants toward incarceration for various new immigration crimes.
The law, set to take effect Sept. 1, makes it a crime to knowingly give a ride or shelter to an illegal immigrant. It requires schools to report the immigration status of students. Alabama employers also would now be required to use a federal system called E-Verify to determine if new workers are in the country legally.
The Justice Department, in its filing, says a state cannot set its own immigration policy and cannot enact laws that conflict with federal immigration laws.
“To put it in terms we relate to here in Alabama, you can only have one quarterback in a football game. In immigration, the federal government is the quarterback,” said Joyce Vance, United States attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
The law is facing opposition on other fronts.
On Monday, Roman Catholic, United Methodist and Episcopal bishops filed a lawsuit, saying the law “makes it a crime to follow God’s command to be Good Samaritans.”
Last month, a coalition of civil rights and immigrant rights groups also filed suit, seeking to bar the law from taking effect. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 24.
The law’s sponsor, Representative Micky Hammon, a Republican, defended it on Monday.
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