ATLANTA — 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 undocumented immigrants during traffic stops.
The 115-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn came in response to a Justice Department lawsuit that challenged the Alabama law on the grounds that it pre-empted federal immigration laws.
The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley in June, is considered the strictest among a handful of similar bills passed by states frustrated with what they consider weak immigration enforcement from Washington.
Observers said Wednesday's decision could hasten Supreme Court review of the new patchwork of state immigration regulations, particularly because federal judges have blocked efforts in Arizona and Georgia to have police check the residency of suspected undocumented immigrants.
"It creates a conflict among lower courts," said Peter Spiro, an immigration law expert at Temple University.
Numerous sections of the Alabama law upheld by Blackburn may take effect immediately. Alabama police may detain people driving without a license in order to check their immigration status. Contracts knowingly entered into with undocumented immigrants will be considered invalid, and undocumented immigrants will not be allowed to apply for driver's or business licenses.