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Eleventh Circuit hears federal challenges to state immigration laws p.2

In the last post, this blog began a discussion of this week's oral arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in three immigration cases from Florida's neighboring states. The federal government is challenging state immigration measures in Alabama and Georgia.

Florida immigration and federal litigation lawyers know that, in the absence of immigration reform in Congress, many groups other than the Justice Department have raised immigration issues in federal litigation or joined current arguments as friends of the court in immigration law issues across the country.

The federal government is bringing the current challenges that are being argued in the 11th Circuit, saying that immigration is a federal issue, and state laws are preempted under federal authority. The U.S. attorney told the panel that, ""States are not free to complement federal law" in immigration issues. One of the appellate judges indicated that federal law, in many situations, allows undocumented immigrants to live in the United States while their applications for legal status are pending.

Like the law in Alabama that requires immigrants to carry registration documents, Georgia's law allows local law enforcement to check an immigrant's legal status. The two states argue that their laws are intended to assist the federal government in managing immigrants. In part, Georgia argues that its law does not regulate immigration, or immigrants themselves, but merely criminalizes the consequences of allegedly unlawful immigration.

The Justice Department not only argues that the state laws are preempted under federal authority to determine immigration policy, but also argues that the state measures interfere with the federal government's potential efforts in pursuing removal proceedings.

The Justice Department says Alabama's law tends to discourage immigrants from remaining in the state. The feds argue that Alabama's law will make it more difficult for federal immigration officials to locate immigrants, concluding that Alabama's state measure "frustrates the federal government's ability to pursue removal proceedings."

Source: Bloomberg, "Immigration Laws of Alabama, Georgia Under Scrutiny in U.S. Appeals Court," Laurence Viele Davidson, Mar. 1, 2012

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