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.