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DOJ ignores civil rights violation aspect of Alabama law

Immigration Korner | 8/10/2011, 3:01 p.m.

Almost two months since Alabama's new "KKK laws" against undocumented immigrants were authorized by the state's governor, Robert Bentley, the U.S. Justice Department has stepped in to block it, much like they did with Arizona's S.B. 1070. Can someone say, "It's about time"?!

Apparently, responding to repeated requests from immigrant and civil rights activists-and, of course, with elections coming up in 2012-the U.S. Justice Department on Monday, Aug. 1 filed a lawsuit seeking to block H.B. 56, which is set to become effective on Sept. 1.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder summed it up: "Today's action makes clear that setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility that cannot be addressed through a patchwork of state immigration laws."

An excerpt from the 45-page complaint against Alabama declares: "In our constitutional system, the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters. This authority derives from the United States Constitution and numerous acts of Congress. The nation's immigration laws reflect a careful and considered balance of national law enforcement, foreign relations and humanitarian interests.

"Although a state may exercise its police power in a manner that has an incidental or indirect effect on aliens, it may not establish its own immigration policy or enforce state laws in a manner that interferes with the federal immigration laws. The Constitution and federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country."

The complaint also slams H.B. 56 for violating the Commerce Clause by attempting to restrict housing and transportation of undocumented immigrants, which affects interstate commerce, as well as by attempting to annul existing contracts held by undocumented immigrants. It also goes on to object to the schooling provisions of H.B. 56, saying they have a chilling effect on an "alien's ability...to go to school."

But interestingly, neither Holder nor the suit stated anything about the civil rights violations that state governments in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and other states are committing. Instead, it seems the lawsuit is motivated purely by jurisdictional concerns and less about the fact that such laws could lead to racial profiling of all minorities, immigrants or not.

The question to be asked is, is the Obama administration, as usual, trying to do the bare minimum on the issue of immigration while it continues its enforcement-only policies nationally?

There is no denying that a spade needs to be called a spade, and what these Arizona copycat laws are is racist and a violation of the constitutional rights of immigrants, whether documented or not!

It is time that Holder and the administration show the cohones to really call these laws what they are: bigoted and a clear throwback to the pre-civil rights era, when the KKK ran the town.

The DOJ's lukewarm efforts are not helping to stem the tide of conservative states trying to show their power over a Black President-rather, they're hurting. A stronger message needs to be sent to stop state lawmakers from believing they are federal immigration enforcement officers or the federal government and a law unto themselves. If not, the disease of bigoted, anti-immigration laws, racial profiling and constitutional violations will continue to spread like wild fire.

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.