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Judge blocks parts of tough Alabama immigration law

September 28, 2011 |  2:55 pm

Immigration protest 

A federal judge Wednesday temporarily blocked portions of Alabama's strict immigration law but upheld others, including a controversial section that requires police to check the residency status of suspected illegal immigrants during traffic stops.

The 115-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn came in response to a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the Alabama law on the grounds that it preempted federal immigration laws.

With appeals anticipated, Wednesday's ruling is unlikely to be the last word on the Alabama law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Robert J. Bentley in June. Known as HB 56, the legislation is widely considered the strictest among a group of similar bills passed by states frustrated with what they consider weak immigration enforcement by Washington.

Observers said Wednesday's decision could hasten a U.S. Supreme Court review of the new  patchwork of state immigration laws, particularly because Blackburn's ruling differed from those of federal judges who enjoined Arizona and Georgia from enacting provisions of laws directing police to check the residency status of suspected illegal immigrants.

"It creates a conflict among lower courts, and that raises the probability that the Supreme Court will have to weigh in on it," said Peter Spiro, an immigration law expert at Temple University.

"It's now only a question of timing."

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-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta

Photo: University of Alabama at Birmingham student Meagan Griffin and others march during a student immigration rally protesting the Alabama immigration law. Credit: Tamika Moore / The Birmingham News

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