Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Constitutionality of Immigration Legislation

Keynote speaker Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice.

The Constitutionality of Immigration Legislation: The State of State Laws.
The American Constitution Society, with support from the Ford Foundation hosted a Southeast regional symposium on state immigration laws.

Opening Remarks: Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. Welcome by Judge U.W. Clemon, former Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

National experts discuss the legal landscape with regard to the constitutionality of state immigration laws and upcoming Supreme Court review of Arizona SB 1070. Moderator, Neil Kinkopf, Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law; Gabriel "Jack" Chin, Professor of Law, University of California, Davis, School of Law; Pratheepan Gulasekaram, Assistant Professor, Santa Clara Law; Jonathan R. Siegel, Kahan Family Research Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School; Cecillia Wang, Director of the Immigrants' Rights Project, American Civil Liberties Union

National and regional advocates connect legal developments to local action. Moderator, Angela Maria Kelley Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy, Center for American Progress; Representative Stacey Y. Abrams, House Minority Leader, Georgia General Assembly;
Tammy Besherse, Staff Attorney, South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center; Kristi Graunke, Senior Staff Attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center; Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center; Charles H. Kuck, Managing Partner, Kuck Immigration Partners LLC.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the state of Arizona’s case regarding a dispute over its anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. In a brief order the Supreme Court announced that it will hear Arizona’s appeal of a lower court decision blocking much of its unconstitutional anti-immigrant law SB 1070.

The ACLU is challenging anti-immigrant laws in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah.

Cecillia Wang stated: “We are looking forward to a ruling that will put an end to the growing patchwork of state immigration laws, which is contrary to our constitutional values. Our federal system was designed to avoid precisely the kind of chaos that has erupted in Alabama and other states when state legislators get into the business of regulating immigration. And beyond the federal-state issue that the Supreme Court will take up in this case, these state immigration laws hurt everyone’s fundamental civil rights by installing a “show me your papers” police regime – it’s un-American.”

Justice Elena Kagan will not hear this case. Since joining the Court, Justice Kagan has scrupulously avoided sitting on any case she worked on while Solicitor General — even though this took her off of dozens of cases.

In July, federal district court judge Susan Bolton imposed a preliminary injunction on parts of the controversial immigration law passed by Arizona in 2010, SB-1070. She enjoined provisions relating to warrantless arrests of suspected undocumented immigrants and document requirements, and also struck down the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone they stop, detain, or arrest if they reasonably suspect the person is in the country illegally.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Bolton’s preliminary injunction on several major provisions of SB-1070. In their stinging legal critiques, 9th Circuit Judges Richard Paez and John Noonan wrote that each of the provisions blocked by Bolton are outright “unconstitutional” and that SB-1070 is preempted by federal law and foreign policy.

In the event that there is a tie in the U.S. Supreme Court resolution - unlikely to happen - the rule of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would uphold.

No matter what the decision of the Supreme Court in the next months - in favor or against SB 1070 - the real and unintended consequences of the laws in place now in those states have being already harmful for the families, the communities and the nation. 

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS), founded in 2001 and one of the nation's leading progressive legal organizations, is a rapidly growing network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals. For more information about the organization or to locate one of the more than 200 lawyer and law student chapters in 48 states, visit

Alabama's HB 56

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