Federal law requires all aliens over age 14 who are in the United States longer than 30 days to register with the government and to have registration documents in their possession at all times.

Frustrated with the federal government’s lack of ability to come up with a comprehensive answer to immigration reform, a handful of states have passed their own immigration laws since April 2010, when Arizona became the first state to pass strict and sweeping anti-illegal immigration legislation. Thirty-six states have had legislation proposed and rejected.

Arizona’s law

The controversial “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” often referred to as Arizona SB 1070, made it a misdemeanor for aliens to be without registration documents. It also:
•    required that law enforcement attempt to determine the immigration status of individuals during stops, detentions or arrests during which there is reasonable suspicion that they are illegal immigrants;
•    authorized law enforcement officers to make warrantless arrests for civil immigration violations;
•    bars state and local officials and agencies from restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws;
•    and cracks down on those who hire, shelter and transport illegal aliens; and made E-Verify mandatory.

Though the act was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer, it has faced legal challenges — including one by the U.S. Department of Justice — that have prevented it from taking effect. In December of 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the legal challenge to SB 1070 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the entry of a preliminary injunction against four key provisions of the law. Oral arguments will happen in April, with a decision expected by the end of June.

Some legislators in other states considered the Arizona law a model piece of legislation, and crafted similar bills.

Alabama, Georgia, Utah, South Carolina and Indiana all passed bills containing some of the same provisions of the Arizona law. However, Indiana and Alabama are the only two to also make it a crime to hire unauthorized immigrants to work.

Alabama’s stricter version

Alabama’s HB 56 builds upon and extends beyond SB 1070, and is now considered the model of strict immigration legislation. In addition to including most of the Arizona law’s provisions, it also makes it illegal to enter into a business transaction with illegal aliens, makes contracts with illegal aliens unenforceable, and requires schools to screen newly enrolling students born outside of the United States.

In September 2011, a federal judge ruled that while some provisions of the law were temporarily enjoined, other provisions could go into effect. That was appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a stay that prevented Alabama from enforcing the student status provision. Oral arguments were consolidated with the case against Georgia’s bill, were scheduled for March 1 but have been delayed, as this court is going to wait to issue a decision until the Supreme Court decision on the Arizona law is reached.

The South Carolina law is also stayed, pending the outcome of the Arizona law.

For now, the provisions of the Alabama law that remain in effect include: requiring law enforcement officers to attempt to determine immigration status of those stopped, detained or arrested; the barring of state courts from enforcing contracts with illegal aliens; and making it a felony for illegal aliens to enter into business transactions with the state.


Click here to read the Jan/Feb 2012 cover story, "Laying Down The Law," which focuses on how HR pros and internal audits can help BSCs.