The Obama administration is challenging Alabama's new law that would let police detain those stopped for traffic offenses who they suspect are in the country illegally, a statute described as one of the toughest immigration regulations nationwide.
In a complaint Monday, the U.S. Justice Department said Alabama's law conflicts with federal law and undermines federal immigration priorities. The lawsuit argues that the state law also expands opportunities for police to push immigrants toward jail for various new immigration crimes.
The law is set to take effect Sept. 1. It also makes it a crime to knowingly give a ride or provide shelter to an illegal immigrant and requires schools to report the immigration status of students. Alabama employers would be required to use a federal system called E-Verify to determine if new workers are in the country legally.
The Justice Department, in its filing in Birmingham federal court, said a state cannot set its own immigration policy and cannot pass laws that conflict with federal immigration laws.
"To put it in terms we relate to here in Alabama, you can only have one quarterback in a football game. In immigration, the federal government is the quarterback," said Joyce Vance, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
Already the law is facing mounting opposition.