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Groups seek to block tough Alabama immigration law

Jul 21, 2011, 9:56 a.m.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Reuters) - Civil rights groups filed a motion in Alabama on Thursday asking a federal judge to stop what has been called the nation's toughest new immigration law from taking effect.

The coalition's motion for a preliminary injunction follows its class action lawsuit filed earlier this month.

Critics say the law, due to take effect September 1, is unconstitutional on multiple grounds.

"It will criminalize Alabamians for everyday interactions with people who are here without documents, such as driving someone to the grocery store or to church, and law enforcement officers will be required to violate the constitutional rights of citizens and non-citizens alike," said Olivia Turner, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.

Under the Alabama law, police must detain someone they suspect of being in the country illegally if the person cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.

It also would be a crime to knowingly transport or harbor someone who is in the country illegally.

Alabama's law is unique in requiring public schools to determine, by review of birth certificates or sworn affidavits, the legal residency status of students upon enrollment.

The civil rights groups' lawsuit says that provision will deter children in immigrant families from enrolling in public schools.

Judges already have blocked key parts of immigration laws passed in Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Indiana.

(Reporting by Peggy Gargis; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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