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Post-Supreme Court, the state of state immigration enforcement laws

An anti-HB 87 protest in Atlanta, Georgia, July 2011
An anti-HB 87 protest in Atlanta, Georgia, July 2011
Photo by C. Elle/Flickr (Creative Commons)

While the same judge who blocked key provisions of SB 1070 in Arizona weights if and when its most controversial section will be enforced, the trickle-down from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on SB 1070 in June has been taking effect in other states.

Earlier this week, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled both against and in favor of contested provisions of SB 1070-style laws in Alabama and Georgia, two of five states that have followed Arizona's lead since 2010. Here's a quick rundown of what held and didn't.

Alabama: Perhaps the most hotly contested provision of Alabama's HB 56 was one that would have required public schools to verify students' immigration status. The appeals court ruled this provision unconstitutional. At the same time, it upheld a provision similar to Arizona's still-contested Section 2(B), the so-called "papers please"provision that would allow local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally and which was upheld by the Supreme Court, with the caveat that it could still face other challenges. From the Montgomery Advertiser:

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Arizona v. United States earlier this summer, the court affirmed provisions allowing law enforcement to check the status of those they had “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country unlawfully and requiring law enforcement to check the status of those driving without motor vehicle licenses.

The court also affirmed the part of the law that places limits on state and local agencies doing business with undocumented immigrants, citing revisions to the law this spring that limited the restrictions to business licenses and certain motor vehicle transactions.

A provision banning undocumented immigrants from attending post-secondary institutions also was affirmed after the Legislature removed language that the district court found set up an immigrant classification system in violation of federal law.

The appeals court also struck down a provision that would have made business contracts signed with undocumented immigrants against the law.

Georgia: The appeals court similarly upheld the SB 1070-style provision allowing local cops to check for immigration status in Georgia's HB 87. This was a key part of the court's decision. However, like with the Supreme Court's decision on SB 1070, the provision was upheld with a caveat. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

But the three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said it recognizes arguments from critics that this statute “invites a host of other problems, namely racial profiling,” and that such racial profiling could spur lawsuits.

Federal court rules say Georgia could begin enforcing the measure — nicknamed the “show-me-your-papers law” — within a matter of weeks if neither side in the case asks for a rehearing by the full appeals court.

The court also ruled that another part of Georgia’s law should remain on hold. That provision would punish people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing other crimes.

The post-Supreme Court fate of other SB 1070-style state laws in Utah, Indiana and South Carolina is still being weighed in the courts. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Section 2(B) has faced a renewed legal challenge on racial profiling grounds, despite being the only one of four provisions not struck down by the Supreme Court in June.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix heard arguments on the provision; it's not clear when she will issue a ruling. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently returned the SB 1070 case to Bolton, who on the eve of the law's implementation in July 2010 issued a temporary injunction blocking key provisions from taking effect.

The legal battle has continued since, and it isn't over yet.