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Alabama judge casts doubt on harsh new illegal immigration law

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Judge Blackburn acknowledged that the language in the bill as written is unclear on details regarding the process of demanding documentation at police stops and whether state schools have the right to demand the birth certificates of parents. She suggested Alabama lawmakers should have taken longer to define exactly how some procedures would happen under the law.

Blackburn did not say when she would make a final ruling.

There is precedent that at least some aspects of the bill may be struck down. Last year, the Obama administration successfully sued to block a similarly expansive immigration law in Arizona and federal courts have temporarily blocked – either in part or entirely – laws in Georgia, Indiana, and Utah until further review.

The Arizona case is on appeal in the US Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether it will take the case.

Much of the debate in the courtroom Wednesday focused on state versus federal authority.

US Department of Justice Attorney William Orrick said the federal government overrules the states in immigration enforcement. “A state may not make it impossible for someone to live in this country,” Mr. Orrick said. “It is important that the country speak with one voice and that voice belongs to the executive branch and the Department of Homeland Security.

He suggested that, if passed, the law would also dampen the country’s reputation by corroding “values like opening and welcoming others.”

The law’s defenders argue it was drafted in response to a lack of federal intervention in what they describe as an unenforced immigration policy. “We asked for help but the federal government is not doing anything about it. They are not following what the laws say,” said Sen. Scott Beason (R), a bill co-sponsor.

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