A federal judge blocked implementation of four parts of Alabama’s new immigration law Wednesday, but ruled to keep several key provisions of the law in place.

The provision mandating the use of the E-Verify program by all employers, including Alabama farmers, was not challenged in the lawsuit and will go into effect April 1.

“Our main focus has been and will continue to be to educate our farmers about how to comply with this law," said Mac Higginbotham, the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Horticulture Division director.

Following several lawsuits, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn blocked the entire law from implementation last month, saying she needed more time to determine its constitutionality.

In Blackburn’s 115-page opinion released yesterday, she stated federal law does not prohibit much of the law from taking effect, including checking the immigration status of public school students or those pulled over by the police.

Blackburn also approved the provisions that allow police to hold suspected illegal immigrants without bond; prohibit state courts from enforcing contracts involving illegal immigrants; make it a felony for an illegal immigrant to do business with the state; and make it a misdemeanor for an illegal resident not to have immigration papers.

Blackburn didn’t say when these parts of the law could take effect, but her original hold on the law’s implementation expires today.

Blackburn’s order temporarily blocked four parts of the law until a final ruling is issued.

Those sections of the law would:

• Make it a crime for illegal immigrants to apply for a job.

• Make it a crime to harbor or transport an illegal immigrant.

• Make it illegal to claim tax deductions on wages paid to illegal immigrants. 

• Allow discrimination lawsuits against companies that dismiss legal workers while hiring illegal workers.

Higginbotham said regardless of the outcome of the law, farmers still need a labor force they currently don’t have.

“Our focus is on working with Congress to improve guest worker laws that allow farmers to get the legal labor they need,” Higginbotham said. 

Also see http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/judge-delays-effective-date-alabama-immigration-law and http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/judge-hears-arguments-against-alabama-immigration-law.