Court: Ala. can detain illegal immigrants

A federal appeals court has blocked enforcement of parts of a controversial immigration enforcement law in Alabama. The federal appeals blocked part of the law that requires schools to check the immigration status of students.

The court also issued a temporary ruling that allows police to detain immigrants that are suspected of being in the country illegally.

The injunction issued Friday from the 11th Circuit U-S Court of Appeals in Atlanta came after the U-S Justice Department-- supported by a coalition of immigrant rights groups-- requested the legislation known as HB 56 be put on hold until the larger constitutional questions can be addressed, a process that could take some months at least.

The Obama administration says the Constitution does not permit states to deter illegal immigration, saying an issue with foreign policy implications is the exclusive mandate of the federal government.

Alabama's law passed by the legislature this summer would allow officials to check the immigration status of public school students; to detain suspected illegal aliens without bond; and make it a crime for illegal residents who lack proper immigration documents, or to conduct business with the state for things like driver's licenses. The case is U.S. v. Alabama (11-14532).

Governor Robert Bentley had this comment regarding the ruling:

"Today's decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is simply one more step in what we knew would be a lengthy legal process.  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.  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.   I will continue to fight to see this law upheld."

U.S. Justice Department reacts to the court ruling:

"We are pleased that the Eleventh Circuit has blocked Alabama's registration provisions which criminalized unlawful presence and chilled access to a public education.  We continue to believe that the other key provisions we challenged are also preempted, and we look forward to the upcoming consideration by the court of appeals of the merits of the appeal."

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard had this comment concerning the ruling:

"Once again, we're pleased that the majority and most effectual parts of this law will remain in place. We've said from the beginning that Alabama will have a strict immigration law and we will enforce it. Alabama will not be a sanctuary state for illegal aliens, and this ruling reinforces that. 

"We also remain perplexed and disappointed at the Obama administration's hypocrisy on this issue. It would be amusing if not so harmful to our country. While the federal government sues to prolong and exacerbate the illegal immigration problem, Alabama is taking action to ensure the laws of our land are upheld."

Judge Mark Kennedy, Chairman of the Alabama Democrats, issued the following statement today regarding the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to block parts of the Beason-Hammon immigration bill:

"This decision is the right choice for Alabama. No family should feel afraid to send their child to school, no teacher should be turned into an immigration officer, and it's flat-out absurd to require Alabamians to make sure they have proof of citizenship with them when they head out for a morning jog. I look forward to a full resolution of this complicated issue, and hope that soon we will be able to work beyond these piecemeal, temporary solutions."

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's office had this to say:

"We respectfully disagree with the Court of Appeals ruling temporarily enjoining additional sections of the Act, but are pleased that the Court has allowed the State to proceed enforcing some of the Act's central provisions.  We will continue to vigorously defend the law as we proceed through the appeals process." 

Read the complete ruling document from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  CLICK HERE

AP contributed to this story