False Start on Alabama’s New Strict Immigration Law

Enforcement of Alabama’s new strict immigration law is off and running. However, as the Huffington Post noted in a recent article, the state’s first arrest under the new law netted a legal immigrant. The first person arrested under the new law was Mohamed Ali Muflahi, a native of Yemen. Police detained Muflahi following a drug bust and held him when he could not produce evidence that he was in the country legally. This changed on Monday, October 3, when Muflahi’s attorney provided police with evidence that Muflahi was in fact in a legal immigration status.

Alabama’s new immigration law is among the most controversial to date. It is currently the topic of three lawsuits, including one by the Obama Administration. Among other things, the law allows police to detain and question anyone suspected of not being in the United States legally. If the person cannot provide documentation of their legal immigration status, they are guilty of a misdemeanor and may be held without bond.

When the law went into effect, it prompted numerous people to pull their children out of Alabama public schools and even move out of the state. Like similar laws in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia, this law is of questionable legal authority. Historically, the only organ of government in the United States capable of making immigration law is Congress. These recent state laws have been the greatest challenge ever  to Congress’ prerogative in this area.

In one way, these laws are a way for state governments to show their discontent with federal enforcement of immigration laws. At the same time, the broad terms of the laws make many fear that the laws will be enforced in a discriminatory manner. While it is almost certain that all of the controversial state immigration laws will be struck down in time, their effect on immigrant culture in the United States continues to be profound.