The Magazine

Alabama Slammed

Obama’s mendacious case against an immigration law.

Dec 12, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 13 • By QUIN HILLYER
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As for the profiling charge, Strange calls it “just ridiculous. .  .  . [Perez’s lawyers] came down here to set up a hotline, had press conferences, etc., all of which is not to eliminate fear but to foster fear.”

Strange is in conflict with Perez over a letter Perez sent directly to Alabama school superintendents​—​abandoning protocol by bypassing state legal officials​—​demanding collection of nine comprehensive sets of enrollment data by “race” and “national origin.”

Strange objected, arguing that the Justice Department has no authority to compel local school officials to provide such information, a task school officials have independently been quoted describing as “extremely labor-intensive.” He asked Perez to explain what specific authority allowed him to demand such information; Perez in effect then gave Strange the back of his hand, listing a number of antidiscrimination laws that Justice “has express authority to investigate and enforce” but without providing a single citation describing a power to commandeer local officials to enforce them.

In reply, Strange told Perez that he interpreted the latter’s letter as “confirm[ing] that your Office asserts no legal authority to compel production of the information.” He also asked Perez to share any supposed civil rights complaints received by Justice regarding the immigration law, in hopes of beginning “a joint endeavor” to root out any abuses. To date, Perez has declined to share such information​—​if indeed it exists.

“What I see come out of Washing-ton really smacks of politics more than anything else,” Strange told me. “One of the things I think is most frustrating to me is they want to ignore 50 years of fabulous progress in this state.”

There is precedent for Strange’s belief that he can win a confrontation with the Department of Justice. In 2001, Alabama’s then-attorney general Bill Pryor fought back against Justice’s attempts to undermine an Alabama law requiring that felons submit to DNA testing when applying for restoration of various privileges including the right to vote. Pryor, now a judge on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, won that battle. Likewise, the Obama Justice Department has fared poorly so far in its own federal court battles over state immigration laws​—​including with several of Pryor’s 11th Circuit colleagues in early rulings on Justice’s suit against Alabama. 

As the Washington Post noted in a November 17 story on the controversy, “legal experts say the level of federal intervention over the immigration laws is extraordinary.” And, one might add, extraordinarily demagogic.

Quin Hillyer is a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom and a senior editor at the American Spectator.

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