Now, a group of Alabamians, including undocumented workers as well as U.S. citizens who fear discrimination from the law’s enforcement, is challenging the law at the state level because they say it violates the 1901 state constitution. According to Section 30 of Article I, “immigration shall be encouraged; emigration shall not be prohibited, and no citizen shall be exiled.”
Thomas E. Drake II, the lawyer who filed the suit, said the federal challenge against the law — that it pre-empts federal immigration policy — is not needed because of the state constitution. “The fact of the matter is the Alabama constitution is significantly more liberal that the federal constitution,” he said, according to the Huntsville Times.
The laws supporters already have a plan to neutralize Drake’s suit — if the constitution does not fit the law, simply change the constitution:
Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, co-sponsor of the new law, said Republicans were delivering on a popular campaign promise and could rewrite the constitution if necessary.
“If they are challenging it due to state law, that should be something we can take care of ourselves,” said Hammon on Tuesday. “The people of the state of Alabama want this. I’m very confident that if we have to pass some type of constitutional amendment, the people will overwhelmingly support it.“
Sadly, there is precedent for this strategy. When the Alabama courts held that the state’s education system did not meet its constitutional obligation to educate low-income children, the state responded by simply deleting that requirement from its constitution.
If the Alabama immigration law survives — whether by court decision or constitutional amendment — it will be the harshest state immigration statute in the nation. The law lets police officers detain those suspected of being illegal immigrations, requires schools to inquire about a student’s immigration status, and makes it a crime to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant. One of the plaintiffs whom Drake represents is the unidentified wife of an illegal immigrant. If the law goes into effect, then she would become a criminal overnight for living with her husband.