US District Judge Sharon Blackburn said in court Wednesday that she believed “there are a lot of problems” with the statute, but that she would only hear arguments that framed the debate by its legality, opposed to its supposed moral or political merits.
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.