WASHINGTON, August 2, 2011 (AFP) – US President Barack Obamaâ€™s administration on Monday filed a legal challenge to a tough new immigration law in the southern state of Alabama that it said would cause â€œirreparable harm.â€
The Justice Department said the law would deter illegal immigrants from enrolling their children in school and distract police from more serious crimes by requiring them to inspect the legal papers of everyone they stop.
The Alabama law would â€œaffect virtually every aspect of an unauthorized immigrantâ€™s daily life, from employment to housing to transportation to entering into and enforcing contracts to going to school,â€ it said.
â€œIt will place significant burdens on federal agencies, diverting their resources away from dangerous criminal aliens and other high-priority targets,â€ it added in a statement.
This is the second time the federal government has stepped in to block a controversial state immigration law after it won a July 2010 court injunction against a similar controversial measure in Arizona.
The Alabama law was far more harsh, as it would have required police to pursue illegal immigrants who had committed no other crime as well as making it a crime for immigrants to work or seek employment.
It would have also barred illegal immigrants from receiving state or local public benefits or enrolling in public colleges.
The Justice Department warned that, by requiring students to prove their lawful presence, it could also discourage parents from enrolling their children in school.
Tough immigration laws in two other states, Utah and Georgia, were suspended earlier this year by court order after immigrant advocacy groups filed suit. A similar law in South Carolina could suffer the same fate.
â€œSetting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility that cannot be addressed through a patchwork of state immigration laws,â€ Attorney General Eric Holder said in the statement.
Obama has called for comprehensive immigration reform that would include strengthening borders but also granting a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
His Republican rivals have adamantly rejected what they say would amount to â€œamnestyâ€ for illegal immigrants and have said the administration has not done enough to secure the US-Mexico border.