Nevertheless, the general tenor of the courts is one of skepticism about the new breed of laws. For example, the 11th Circuit Court, which oversees Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, struck down significant parts of the Alabama and Georgia laws, including the creation of new crimes to punish those who aid, abet, even employ, illegal immigrants. Courts also nixed provisions that mandated immigrants carry their residency papers on them at all times.
Most significantly, the 11th Circuit struck down an Alabama provision that required school students to inform the state education department about their legal status, an exercise the state claimed was merely informational to be used to build better policy.
"We conclude that most of the challenged provisions cannot stand," the court said on Monday.
While one intent of the laws are clearly to cause illegal immigrants to leave, states have expressly said the main focus of tougher anti-immigration laws is to help federal agents enforce federal law – a powerful political argument in states like Arizona and Georgia, which have large populations of undocumented workers. Many people in those states also believe the federal government is impotent when it comes to controlling illegal immigration.
"The essence of Alabama's immigration law has been upheld by today's ruling," Republican Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement. "The court is recognizing the state's authority to inquire on immigration status in certain circumstances."
But in Phoenix on Tuesday, District Court Judge Susan Bolton was set to consider a request from civil-rights groups to uphold the injunction on the new law, claiming they have new data suggesting it could lead to "needless suffering" for legal immigrants and even citizens.
"We have a good deal of evidence that the law would have a disparate impact on Latinos and Mexicans in particular, and that the law was enacted out of a discriminatory intent," Linton Joaquin, general counsel for the National Immigration Law Center, one of the groups leading the court challenge, told Reuters.