Saturday, June 25, 2011

Justice Department reviews immigration law

The U.S. Justice Department said Friday it is reviewing Alaba­ma's strict new immigration law and has scheduled a meeting Tuesday to discuss it with state law enforcement officials."To the extent we find state laws that interfere with the feder­al government's enforcement of immigration law, we are prepared to bring suit," Xochitl Hinojosa, a DOJ spokeswoman, said in a state­ment. "The Department is cur­rently reviewing immigration-re­lated laws that were passed in Utah, Indiana, Georgia and Alaba­ma."
Hinojosa confirmed the meet­ing with law enforcement but de­clined to discuss it further.
Alabama Sheriffs' Association executive director Bobby Tim­mons said the Justice Department requested the meeting Thursday.
Timmons said the event was "kind of forced upon him" but that he was trying to bring sheriffs, deputies and police officials into it in the hopes of answering ques­tions about the impact of the legis­lation on law enforcement.
"Hopefully we'll come out with a better answer on the situation," he said.
Daphne Levenson, director of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police, said that AACOP had not seen anything about a meet­ing, but added that they had been on the road visiting with chiefs this week.
Meetings with DOJ on state laws are uncommon, Levenson said, but tend to focus on risk-management issues when they oc­cur.
The Justice Department had not contacted the Alabama De­partment of Public Safety, spokes­woman Robyn Litchfield said Fri­day.
Calls to Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, and Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, the sponsors of the immigration bill, were not imme­diately returned Friday afternoon. Both have said the legislation would not conflict with federal laws.
The immigration bill Gov. Robert Bentley signed into law on June 9 authorizes law enforce­ment officials in Alabama to de­tain people if they have a "reason­able suspicion" that they are in the country illegally. The provi­sion is similar to one in Arizona's controversial immigration law passed in 2010 and is one of many parts of the Arizona law stayed by federal courts.
DOJ challenged the Arizona law in federal court last summer, saying in a release at the time that the law enforcement provisions would "result in the harass­ment and detention of for­eign visitors and legal immi­grants, as well as U.S. citizens, who cannot readily prove their lawful status."Arizona's law divided law enforcement in that state. The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the measure, saying it would hurt the ability of law en­forcement "to fulfill their many responsibilities in a timely manner." The Arizona Police Association backed the measure, with the presi­dent of the group telling Time that undocumented aliens had officers "getting killed, getting severely in­jured."
Joy Patterson, a spokes­woman for Alabama Attor­ney General Luther Strange, said Strange would be meet­ing with Justice Department officials on July 1 in New Or­leans on the law. Patterson said Strange had already made plans to be in New Or­leans to discuss litigation re­lated to the BP oil spill. The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center and National Im­migration Law Center have promised lawsuits over the legislation.

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