A spending bill for the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Commerce has been passed by the House of Representatives with a block on the DOJ spending any money challenging state immigration laws and that would limit DOJ’s ability to oppose the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in court proceedings.
It also has provisions that would restrict the use of funds to provide for hardship relief in certain immigration deportation cases.
However, the House blocked amendments which would bar funding for racial profiling by law enforcement and that would bar the use of funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
“[The bill] advanced a narrow ideological agenda. It’s anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-minority and anti-progressive. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain telling you he’s the great and powerful Oz – cutting spending with a vengeance. No, no – it’s the ideology, not the money.”
Democrat Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania argued against the attempt to stop the DOJ challenging state immigration laws as a violation of the separation of powers.
“To take away someone’s right to have a lawyer — that is to say, the Justice Department can’t go into court on behalf of the executive branch when they feel the Constitution is being violated — I think is a bad precedent,” Fattah said.
If it passes the Senate, Attorney General Eric Holder would be blocked from bringing or joining lawsuits against any of eight immigration related laws passed by individual states, including Alabama.
Alabama, meanwhile, is revising its own law, widely considered to be the harshest in the country, after a series of successful court challenges as well as embarrassments and criticisms from business.
According to the Progress League, the law has led to: a loss of up to $10.8 billion of Alabama’s GDP, a loss of 140,000 jobs and a loss of $264.5 million in state tax revenue.
The changes under discussion in Alabama’s Senate include to remove penalties to businesses that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants. But it leaves a requirement for schools to check immigration status, even though that was knocked down by the courts because the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982’s Plyler v. Doe. allows undocumented children to attend school. The police checks regarded by Hispanics as racial profiling also remain.
The DOJ has told Alabama that the law could “implicate” the 1964 Civil Rights Act, banning discrimination in public schools and programs that receive federal assistance. It says that Hispanic students are being singled out in Alabama schools.
Photo of Selma Voting Rights March by Nicole Cairns, Reform Immigration FOR America