Last week, 16 nations filed briefs in a US District Court against Alabama's new anti-immigration law, the strictest yet in a string of anti-immigration legislation passed in other states like Arizona and Georgia. This law, passed in early June, 2011 follows in the footsteps of the infamous Arizona law, SB 1070, but goes even further in criminalizing immigrants, encouraging racial profiling, and violating civil rights.
Starting September 1, police in Alabama will be required to detain someone suspected of being in the country illegally if they cannot present documentation, the public schools will have to determine the immigration status of all their students, and anyone who knowingly harbors or transports an undocumented immigrant will be breaking the law.
The 16 countries who filed the brief against Alabama's law, recognize how harmful it could be for their citizens. These countries include Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Instead of state legislation that threatens the rights of immigrants, this group of nations advocates for a single national immigration policy in the United States. Edward Still, an attorney in Birmingham who filed the briefs for these nations, told the Montgomery Advertiser,
They want to make sure their citizens are treated correctly, and they have a sovereign interest in the way in which immigration law is carried out by the United States...They want to have one immigration law and not 50.
These countries are not alone in calling for the end of this law. The Department of Justice is challenging the law in court along with several lawsuits brought by the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Methodist, Episcopalian and Roman Catholic churches.
The Director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, Cecillia Wang described the civil rights travesty that this law could become in the ACLU's press release,
This law is an outrageous throw-back to the pre-Civil Rights era, going beyond the discriminatory and unconstitutional police practices that we’ve seen in other states. It blocks the schoolhouse doors to children, will result in people being turned away when they try to rent a home, and places burdens on people of color at the voting booth.
Hopefully, the combined efforts of 16 foreign countries, 2 civil rights organizations, 3 churches, and the United States Department of Justice can stop this law. If not, perhaps the federal government will realize that these state laws will continue to pass as long as it fails to reform the immigration system on the national level and take a stand against racial profiling.