Appeals court curtails Alabama immigration law, for now
A US appeals court temporarily blocked two requirements of the tough Alabama immigration law: one that schools check new students' immigration status and one that immigrants carry special ID.
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For now, public schools are no longer required to check the immigration status of students enrolling for the first time in the state. And immigrants cannot be required to carry documents that prove their legal status.
The appeals court is expected to hear full arguments challenging the law in late November. But the challengers, including the US Department of Justice and a coalition of civil rights groups, are encouraged by Friday's injunction because it indicates they may have a strong chance of prevailing on those two aspects of Alabama's law, at least.
The ins and outs of the appeals process, however, are not likely to have much practical impact on families who have already fled schools, or fled the state altogether, out of fears about how the law will be enforced.
News reports indicate that hundreds of Latino students were absent from school earlier this month after a lower-court judge ruled that the school immigration checks could go forward. Other aspects of Alabama's law also appear to have scared away many agricultural workers.
It had “a strong chilling effect in terms of parents being willing to enroll their children in schools,” says Shiu-Ming Cheer, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, one of the groups that challenged the Alabama law.
At Crossville Elementary School, with a 65 percent Hispanic population, about 200 of the 900 students didn’t show up for school when the law first went into effect, says Principal Ed Burke.
The court action Friday was a good one, he says, because “there was too much junk” in the law. People were so confused that some families thought a school resource officer would be showing up at their doors to take their children into custody.
State education officials and local organizations have tried to spread the word that the school provision applies only to new students and exists simply to report the numbers of undocumented students to the state. Indeed, many students who originally disappeared from Crossville Elementary have come back to school, Mr. Burke says. Only about 20 remain absent.