Jay Sekulow

Faith & Justice

Jay Sekulow: Defending Alabama’s Immigration Law

posted by Jay Sekulow

With the Supreme Court poised to act on Arizona’s law targeting illegal immigrants in the coming months, a new legal challenge regarding illegal immigration is winding its way through the federal court system – this time it’s Alabama’s measure under fire from the Obama Administration.

Alabama’s measure, HB 56, is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

We have just filed an important amicus brief backing the Alabama measure – a brief that urges the appeals court to uphold the measure which we contend “mirrors federal immigration provisions.” At the same time, our brief warns that if the Obama Administration challenge to the Alabama law succeeds, states will be effectively rendered “powerless over unchecked illegal immigration and the associated social and economic costs that their citizens must bear.”

The Alabama appeal comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments this spring in a legal challenge by the Obama Administration attacking the Arizona immigration measure, SB 1070. As you may recall, we’ve been deeply involved in that litigation – backing Arizona’s measure with an amicus brief that urged the high court to take the case on behalf of 59 members of Congress and some 60,000 Americans.

In our filing at the 11th Circuit, our arguments in support of the Alabama law are very similar to what we have argued in the Arizona case:

“This case reveals a clash between the Administration and Congressionally enacted laws over the states’ role in immigration law enforcement. For the past quarter century, Congress has welcomed, and in fact highly depends on, state and local assistance in enforcing federal immigration laws. National immigration policy, as codified in Congressional Acts, provides for concurrent federal/state authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Many states across the country are enacting laws like Alabama’s HB 56. In keeping with Congress’s intent, most of these state laws, including HB 56, mirror federal immigration provisions and incorporate federal standards. State efforts to promote national policy as embodied in federal statutes should be upheld provided they hew closely to federal standards. Because the provisions of HB 56 track federal standards, HB 56 promotes Congressional immigration policy and is not preempted.”

“The Administration’s attack on HB 56 undermines federalist and separation of powers principles by permitting the Administration’s policy preferences to trump Congress’s statutory acknowledgement that states have inherent authority to enforce laws that profoundly affect their citizens’ welfare. A decision sustaining the Administration’s claims will effectively leave the states powerless over unchecked illegal immigration and the associated social and economic costs that their citizens must bear.”

The issue of immigration is fast becoming one of the top issues for the American people. And this latest case underscores the growing clash between the federal government and the rights of states.

The fact is Alabama is only doing what a growing number of states are doing: taking action after the Obama Administration has failed to do so. Taking action in a manner does not impede federal law. And, as with the Alabama measure, taking action that is actually consistent with federal immigration policy that promotes increasingly greater roles for states in enforcing immigration law.

Jay Sekulow


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