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Alabama Immigration Law 

Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley, United States v. Alabama, and Parsley v. Bentley

Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley, United States v. Alabama, and Parsley v. Bentley are treated together.  These three cases were filed in federal court in the Northern District of Alabama in July and August 2011.  They were briefly consolidated, such that a single judge heard motions for preliminary injunction in all three cases together and then issued rulings in the cases on the same day.  Appeals from the decisions in two of the cases were then on parallel tracks in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley, Case No. 5:11-cv-02484-SLB (N.D. Ala., pending).

The first lawsuit challenging Alabama’s immigration law, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley, Case No. 5:11-cv-02484-SLB (N.D. Ala., pending), was filed on July 8, 2011, shortly after Act No. 2011-535 was signed by the Governor.  The plaintiffs are twelve organizations and twenty-four individuals.  They are represented by lawyers from across the country, including lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The State Defendants are Governor Bentley, Attorney General Strange, the Superintendent of the State Department of Education, the Chancellor of Postsecondary Education, and a district attorney.  The Attorney General’s Office represents the State Defendants.  Additionally, several local superintendents are named as defendants in this litigation and they have separate counsel.

The HICA Plaintiffs allege that various provisions of Act No. 2011-535 are preempted by federal law, and that the Act as a whole is preempted by federal law.  They also allege that various provisions of the Act violate federal law, including both the United States Constitution and federal statutes.  Because the lawsuit was filed before Act No. 2011-535 took effect, it presents a facial challenge to the law.

United States v. Alabama, Case No. 2:11-cv-02746-SLB (N.D. Ala., pending), and Parsley v. Bentley, Case No. 5:11-cv-02736-SLB (N.D. Ala., pending). 

On August 1, 2011 two additional lawsuits were filed in the Northern District of Alabama.  

The United States sued the State of Alabama and Governor Bentley, alleging that various provisions of Act No. 2011-535 are preempted by federal law. United States v. Alabama, Case No. 2:11-cv-02746-SLB (N.D. Ala., pending). 

A group of Church Leaders sued Governor Bentley, Attorney General Strange, and a district attorney.  Parsley v. Bentley, Case No. 5:11-cv-02736-SLB (N.D. Ala., pending).  The plaintiffs are: the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama; the Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church; the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Mobile; the Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham; the Benedictine Sisters of Cullman, Alabama, Inc.; and, the Benedictine Society of Alabama. The Church Leaders focus on Sections 13 and 27 of the Act, which they allege violate their federal constitutional rights with respect to religion. 

These lawsuits were also filed before Act No. 2011-535 was scheduled to take effect, and therefore present facial challenges to the law. 

The Attorney General’s Office represents the State Defendants in these cases.

Opposing the Motions for Preliminary Injunction.

The HICA Plaintiffs, the United States, and the Church Leaders all moved for preliminary injunctions.  A preliminary injunction is granted when a court determines that the plaintiffs have a substantial likelihood of winning on the merits and that the equities favor an injunction issuing.  A preliminary injunction only remains in place while the litigation continues through discovery, additional briefing, trial (if one is needed), and an ultimate decision on the merits.  The issuance of a preliminary injunction does not mean that the plaintiff will ultimately prevail.

The State Defendants contested the requests for preliminary injunctions.  On August 5, 2011, the State Defendants filed an opposition in the HICA litigation.  Attached to the opposition were four exhibits:

  • a declaration from a lawyer at the Alabama Department of Public Safety which discusses Alabama’s collaboration with the federal government in fighting illegal immigration;
  • a declaration from the Code Commissioner discussing how two enforcement provisions of Act No. 2011-535 will be codified;
  • a letter from then-State Superintendent of Education Joseph B. Morton, which explained to City and County Superintendents the manner in which Section 28 of Act No. 2011-535 is to be implemented, consistent with federal law; and,
  • a letter from then-Chancellor Freida Hill to the Presidents of the Alabama Community College System, which explained how Section 8 of Act No. 2011-535 is to be implemented, consistent with federal law. 

On August 20, 2011, the State Defendants filed supplemental briefing addressing the HICA Plaintiffs’ challenge to Section 28 on Equal Protection grounds.

On August 15, 2011, the State Defendants filed their opposition to the motion for preliminary injunction filed by the United States.  In support of this opposition, the State Defendants attached:

  • information from the PewResearch Center;
  • a declaration from an employee of the Alabama Department of Corrections stating that there were then 182 inmates in State custody for whom ICE had issued detainers;
  • a 2002 Opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel at the United States Department of Justice explaining the inherent authority of State and local law enforcement officers to make arrests for violations of federal law; and,
  • information from the National Education Association.

Also on August 15, 2011, the State Defendants filed their response to the Church Leaders’ amended motion for preliminary injunction.   After the Church Leaders replied in support of their motion for a preliminary injunction, the State Defendants filed a surreply.

Additionally in the Church Leaders’ case, the State Defendants moved the federal court to ask the Alabama Supreme Court how to interpret Sections 13 and 27 of Act No. 2011-535 in compliance with the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment to the Alabama Constitution, Ala. Const. Art. I, § 3.01.  The Court denied the motion.

Court Action on the Motions for Preliminary Injunction.         

The Honorable Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, Chief Judge of the Northern District of Alabama, heard arguments on all three pending motions for preliminary injunction in Birmingham on August 24, 2011.  Most of the provisions of Act No. 2011-535 were set to take effect the next week on September 1, 2011.

After the hearing, and in light of the complexity of the challenges brought against Act No. 2011-535, Judge Blackburn temporarily enjoined the enforcement of the entire Act.  The court’s Order was not a reflection of the court’s views on the merits; it simply allowed the court more time to analyze the issues.

On September 28, 2011, Judge Blackburn ruled in all three cases on the motions for preliminary injunction.  In each case, the court issued both a Memorandum Opinion setting out its reasoning and a short Order. 

First, the court ruled in the United States’ case.  (Memorandum OpinionOrder)  The court granted the United States’ motion as to Sections 11(a), 13, 16, and 17, and thus enjoined the State from enforcing those provisions.  The court denied the United States’ motion as to the other Sections of Act No. 2011-535 that it had challenged (Sections 10, 12(a), 18, 27, 28, and 30). 

Next, Judge Blackburn denied the Church Leader’s motion in its entirety, holding that their challenge to Section 13 was moot because of the ruling in the United States case and that they lacked standing to prosecute their challenge to Section 27. (Memorandum Opinion, Order

Lastly, the court ruled in the HICA case.  (Memorandum Opinion, Order)  The court held that the HICA Plaintiffs' challenges to Sections 11(a) and 13 were moot because of the ruling in the United States case.  The court granted the HICA Plaintiffs’ motion as to Sections 8, 11(f) and 11(g), as well as to the last sentences of Sections 10(e), 11(e), 13(h). Thus the State was enjoined from enforcing those provisions.  The court denied the motion as to the other Sections of Act No. 2011-535 that the HICA Plaintiffs had challenged (Sections 12, 18, 19, 20, 27, 28, and 30).

Interlocutory Appeals to the Eleventh Circuit: Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama  v. Bentley, Case No. 11-14535, and United States v. Alabama, Case No. 11-14532.

The HICA Plaintiffs and the United States quickly appealed, and moved Judge Blackburn to grant injunctions pending appeal.  The State Defendants opposed those motions, (HICA, United States), and also filed cross-appeals.   On October 5, 2011, the district court entered short Orders denying both motions for injunction pending appeal.  (HICA, United States)

Both the HICA Plaintiffs and the United States then moved the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals for injunctions pending appeal.  The United States went a step further, asking the appellate court to temporarily enjoin certain provisions of Act No. 2011-535 while it considered whether to grant an injunction pending appeal.  The State Defendants immediately filed an opposition to that request.

The Eleventh Circuit issued an Order setting an expedited schedule for briefing the motions for injunction pending appeal. The State Defendants timely filed an opposition, including exhibits

On October 14, 2011, the Eleventh Circuit issued an Order enjoining the State from enforcing Sections 10 and 28 of the Act during the appeal, but declining to enjoin additional provisions. 

The State Defendants filed their initial appellate briefs on December 27, 2011 (HICA, United States).  In February 2012, we filed our reply briefs (HICAUnited States).  Oral argument was held on March 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  

On March 8, 2012, the Eleventh Circuit issued an Order enjoining the State from enforcing Sections 27 and 30 of Act No. 2011-535 during the appeal. The Court announced at oral argument that it would not issue a final decision until after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the then-pending Arizona case.

In May 2012, the State Defendants moved the Eleventh Circuit to vacate its injunction with respect to Section 30 of the 2011 Act because that Section had been amended by the then-newly enacted Act No. 2012-491. The motion was opposed, and the State Defendants filed a reply in support of their motion.

In June 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Arizona case. Consistent with an order issued by the Eleventh Circuit, the State Defendants filed briefs in both the HICA and United States cases addressing the impact of the Arizona decision and the 2012 Act. Other supplemental filings had also been made during the course of the appeal.

On August 20, 2012, the Eleventh Circuit ruled. First, in the United States case, the Court found that the United States is likely to succeed on the merits of its challenges to Sections 10, 11(a), 13(a), 16, 17, and 27 of the 2011 Act. The Court concluded, however, that the United States was not likely to succeed on the merits of its challenges to Sections 12(a), 18 and 30. The Court issued an Order granting the State Defendants’ motion to vacate its injunction as to Section 30; as a result, Section 30 is now in effect. As to the United States’ challenge to Section 28, the Court determined it was moot based on the separate decision in HICA.

Then, in HICA, the Court found the Plaintiffs likely to prevail on their challenge to Section 28, but not in their challenges to Sections 12, 18, and 30. The Plaintiffs’ challenges to Sections 10 and 27 were mooted by the United States litigation, while the challenge to Section 8 was mooted due to the 2012 amendment to the immigration law. Finally, the Court vacated as moot injunctions against certain subsections of provisions that were already enjoined.

The State Defendants petitioned for rehearing by the entire Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in both the HICA case and the United States case. (The original decision was by a 3-judge panel of the Court.) In the HICA case, the petition focused on the legal issue of standing to bring a claim and on the Court’s Equal Protection analysis. In the United States case, the petition focused on the harboring (Section 13) and contracts (Section 27) provisions.  The petition in the HICA case was denied on November 27, 2012, and the petition in the United States case was denied on October 17, 2012.

Supreme Court proceedings.

On January 15, 2013 the State Defendants filed a petition for a writ of certiorari seeking Supreme Court review of the Eleventh Circuit’s decision concerning Section 13 in the United States case. The United States filed a brief in opposition. On April 1, 2013, the State Defendants filed a reply brief in support of their petition. 

 

Summary as of April 2, 2013