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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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Ultimately, the Alabama law could be challenged in the US Supreme Court, which would have to consider its own 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision affirming the rights of undocumented children to have a free public education.

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Aside from the harm it would cause children to be uneducated, Mr. Gulasekaram says, it wouldn’t benefit society if illegal immigrants feared sending their children to school, leading to a “permanent underclass of people.”

The Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature passed the immigration law earlier this year. A US district judge prevented some of it from going into effect, and now the appeals court has blocked some of the remaining portions. Those legal setbacks are not the final word, however, and Gov. Robert Bentley (R) on Friday repeated his vow "to fight to see this law upheld."

“As I have said on many occasions, if the federal government had done its job by enforcing its own immigration laws, we wouldn't be here today," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, by failing to do its job, the federal government has left the problem of dealing with illegal immigration to the states. Alabama needed a tough law against illegal immigration. We now have one."

Provisions of the law that remain in effect allow people to be detained when there’s a reasonable suspicion that they are undocumented or when they lack proof of a driver’s license. State and local agencies are also still prohibited from entering into contracts with the undocumented.

Detainment based on “reasonable suspicion” that someone is in the US illegally “has opened the door for racial profiling,” says Isabel Rubio, executive director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama in Birmingham. While she’s relieved that Friday’s injunction blocks some portions of the law, she says the law has already led to “a state of chaos here. It’s a crisis.”

Staff writer Patrik Jonsson contributed to this article from Crossville, Ala.

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