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November 20, 2011 Sore Losers: Administration Retaliating Against Alabama for Winning Immigration Lawsuit
By Ira Mehlman
The Obama administration does not want most immigration laws enforced. They’ve stated so explicitly in internal memos, letters to members of Congress, and in a public announcement of a policy shift in August. The Obama administration is not keen on anyone else enforcing immigration either. They’ve made that abundantly clear by suing three states (so far) – Arizona, Alabama and, most recently, South Carolina – for enacting laws designed to discourage illegal immigration.
Playing on the friendly turf of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the administration succeeded in blocking implementation of significant portions of Arizona’s SB 1070 law. However, last month the administration found itself in a less sympathetic arena: the 11th Circuit. That court rebuffed the administration’s effort to block implementation of Alabama’s HB 56, allowing all but two provisions to take effect immediately.
The Obama administration appears unwilling to accept the verdict of the 11th Circuit and unprepared to wait for the matter to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, the administration has opted for a policy that is equal parts retribution against Alabama, and intimidation of other states contemplating their own enforcement strategies.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a “request” to school superintendents across Alabama seeking voluminous amounts of data, some of which would have to be updated monthly. DOJ’s fishing expedition included detailed school enrollment data, broken down by race, ethnicity, and national origin; absentee data broken down by school, including the names of each student who has had one “unexplained absence” since implementation of HB 56; tracking information about students classified as English Learners, whether they are enrolled in remedial English classes or not, to name just a few of DOJ’s “requests.” DOJ gave Alabama schools ten days to comply.
When Alabama’s attorney general, Luther Strange, advised superintendents not comply (citing ongoing litigation over HB 56) and questioned DOJ’s legal authority to seek such detailed information, the head of DOJ’s civil rights division, Thomas Perez, shot back asserting that his department has “express authority” to investigate “potential violations of civil rights laws that protect educational opportunities for schoolchildren.” Before becoming Assistant Attorney General, Perez served as director of an outfit known as CASA de Maryland, a strident and well-financed illegal alien advocacy group that receives funding from sources as diverse as the State of Maryland and Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chavez.
DOJ’s request does not appear to be predicated on any documented violations of anyone’s civil rights. The section of HB 56 which would have required Alabama schools to collect data about citizenship status of students who enroll was one of two provisions that the 11th Circuit blocked from taking effect. (How Alabama is supposed to provide DOJ data about national origin if they’re not allowed to ask that information is not quite clear.) Moreover, a 1982 Supreme Court decision requires that states provide free K-12 education to students irrespective of immigration status.
HB 56 has, no doubt, resulted in the withdrawal of students from Alabama schools who are either illegal aliens or the dependent children of illegal aliens. But that fact does not imply civil rights violations. Rather, it is a direct consequence of the law – ruled to be constitutional by the 11th Circuit – working as intended. Illegal aliens are getting the message and moving out of Alabama, taking their kids with them.
The fact that illegal aliens are leaving Alabama in significant numbers (much as they have done in other places where local enforcement policies have been implemented) is the biggest concern for an administration whose policy objective is amnesty, not enforcement. Every time a state government demonstrates that illegal aliens are indeed rational people, who respond rationally to signals that illegal immigration will not be countenanced, it undermines the specious argument that the only solution to the problem is mass amnesty.
As the administration wages its effort to halt most enforcement of immigration laws and to secure amnesty for the millions of illegal aliens who are here, DOJ has been turned into a political attack dog, unleashed on any state or local government that dares to get in the administration’s way. When lawsuits fail, because courts determine that states are acting legally, DOJ is sending a clear message that its civil right division will be there to drain additional state resources with retaliatory demands for data.
Ira Mehlman is the Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.