Sweet Home Alabama? Immigration and Civil Rights in the 'New' South
8 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2011 Last revised: 16 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 5, 2011
The Supreme Court soon will decide whether to review the constitutionality of Arizona’s high-profile immigration enforcement effort, known popularly as S.B. 1070. Arizona’s law is simply the tip of the iceberg. State legislatures have passed immigration enforcement laws over the last few years at breakneck speed. Controversy has ensued.
Earlier this year, the Alabama legislature entered the fray by passing a tough-as-nails immigration law. The Alabama law builds on the controversial Arizona law but goes considerably further.
This essay contends that the civil rights implications for immigrants and Latinos raised by the state immigration laws are in many respects similar to the civil rights issues raised by Jim Crow for African-Americans. This is true even though the current litigation centers on federal preemption doctrine, as opposed to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The current state laws eerily bring back memories of the “states’ rights” defense of segregation. Congress could measurably help address the civil rights concerns through some form of comprehensive immigration reform. The courts and the public should realize that, until the nation grapples with the civil rights impact of its immigration laws, it will continue to generate the sort of heated controversy that surrounds Alabama’s immigration law.
Keywords: immigration, civil rights
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