How Will The Immigration Case Affect Other States?

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Now that the Supreme Court has struck down most of Arizona's immigration law, lawmakers in Alabama are trying to determine what the ruling means for people there. Alabama's immigration law is seen to be even stricter than Arizona's law.


In Alabama, a similar but tougher immigration law faces its own legal challenge. That case had been on hold, pending a ruling on the Arizona law. Andrew Yeager reports from member station WBHM.

ANDREW YEAGER, BYLINE: State Senator Scott Beason's phone has been ringing off the hook.

STATE SEN. SCOTT BEASON: Everybody calls and says, you know, have you read the opinion yet? And my answer is always no, because I've been on the phone constantly since. But no, I haven't...

YEAGER: Beason sponsored the Alabama law. The Republican stands outside the Gardendale Civic Center, north of Birmingham, as a couple of reporters line up. Beason says the ruling is a mixed bag. He's happy the so-called show-me-your-papers provision was upheld; not so happy three others were overturned. And he feels the court's reasoning isn't clear.

BEASON: Because of their ambiguity in the decision, it's entirely possible that Alabama could fly and do very, very well.

YEAGER: Or, he says, it may not. Alabama speaker of the House says the court left the teeth of the Arizona law in effect, and that's a victory. The Southern Poverty Law Center is among the groups which challenged the Alabama bill. Legal Director Mary Bauer says while it's not a perfect ruling, it's a strong blow to anti-immigrant laws. She says the ruling, in general, makes clear a state cannot enact its own immigration policy.

MARY BAUER: And I think that means that much of Alabama's law is sort of dead in the water.

YEAGER: In addition of Alabama, Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina and Utah have similar immigration laws with legal challenges on hold. University of Alabama law professor Paul Horwitz says yesterday's ruling on Arizona does not make these other cases a foregone conclusion. Courts will weigh provisions not in Arizona's law. Judges may find wiggle room in the ruling. What it does, he says, is offer guidance.

PAUL HORWITZ: The Supreme Court often acts as a kind of traffic signal, and it's steering the traffic in a particular direction now.

YEAGER: So with these immigration laws in the middle of that process, further legal showdowns are expected - something both sides of the debate do agree on.

For NPR News, I'm Andrew Yeager in Birmingham.

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