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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Alabama's Immigration Law and the Contract Clause (Again)

Border WarningWe wondered a few months back whether Alabama's immigration law might give rise to a Contract Clause challenge.  Section 27 of that law, with a few exceptions, bars Alabama courts from enforcing a contract to which a person who is unlawfully present in the United States is a party.  Section 30 of the law makes it a felony for an alien not lawfully present in the United States to enter into a “business transaction” with the State of Alabama or any political subdivision thereof.  The Contract Clause provides that "No State shall . . . pass any . . . Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts."  Sections 27 and 30 seem facially problematic, but Contract Clause challenges have rarely succeeded since the Lochner era.

For some more detail, see the Constitutional Law Prof Blog.

The Eleventh Circuit has now enjoined the enforcement of those two provisions, pending the Supreme Court's ruling later this term in a case challenging Arizona's new tough immigration law. In a previous decision (before a different panel for some reason), the Eleventh Circuit also enjoined two other provisions of the law, which do not relate to contracts.  

For some more detail, see the Constitutional Law Prof Blog.

For more information on the Supreme Court case, Arizona v. United States, check out the coverage over at the SCOTUSblog.  The Arizona law has a provision that makes it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigration to apply for a job or to work in Arizona.  The contracts clause claim does not appear to be part of the Arizona case, but the Supreme Court's ruling (expected this summer) will certainly provide guidance to the 11th Circuit on the question of federal preemption of state immigration laws.

[JT]

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