The government hasn’t offered to help Alabama put in place a strict immigration law that the Obama administration is challenging in court, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.
The administration has sued to block the law, which is considered the toughest state immigration measure in the country.
“We have been working with the Department of Justice in its challenge to that law,” Napolitano told the House Judiciary Committee.
A federal appeals court in Atlanta this month temporarily blocked a part of the law that required public schools to check the immigration status of students. But the court did not bar law enforcement officials from detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally.
A final ruling in the case is not expected for several months.
Alabama Republicans have argued that the law, passed this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley, was necessary to protect the jobs of legal residents.
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he’s not surprised by Napolitano’s comments.
“I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the federal government won’t help us enforce our laws considering it hasn’t been enforcing its own law for years. That’s why we’re in this mess to begin with. In Alabama, we’re trying to turn off the magnet drawing illegal aliens across the border. The Obama Administration is trying to make the magnet stronger,” said Hubbard.
The Obama administration, which also is challenging a similar law in Arizona, has argued that enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility.
Advocates against the strict state law have argued that giving immigration enforcement power to local authorities will lead to racial profiling of immigrants, both legal and illegal.
“Common sense law enforcement is about prioritizing resources,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “The Department of Homeland Security should work with the Department of Justice to hold Alabama accountable, and prioritize valuable enforcement resources carefully to make sure the most dangerous individuals are detained and deported.”
Napolitano said that while it is too soon to know what impact the new law will have, such worries “should be a real a real concern.”
Similar laws have been passed in Utah, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana. Civil rights groups have sued to block them.