MIAMI — A judge blocked a new immigration law in the southern US state of Alabama Monday after the measure, attacked as draconian and intrusive, was challenged by President Barack Obama's administration.
"US District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn has decided to block Alabama's new immigration law, temporarily until September 29, while a federal judge weighs the case," a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office told AFP.
The Department of Justice in a filing earlier this month said the law would deter illegal immigrants from enrolling their children in school and distract police from more serious crimes by requiring them to inspect the legal papers of everyone they stop.
The justice department also said the law attempts to usurp the federal government's role in setting its own immigration policy.
"A state cannot set its own immigration policy, much less pass laws that conflict with federal enforcement of the immigration laws," it said in an August 1 statement.
The Alabama law would "affect virtually every aspect of an unauthorized immigrant?s daily life, from employment to housing to transportation to entering into and enforcing contracts to going to school," it said.
Critics say the measure would also have barred illegal immigrants from receiving state or local public benefits or enrolling in public colleges.
"It will place significant burdens on federal agencies, diverting their resources away from dangerous criminal aliens and other high-priority targets," the justice department said.
Obama has called for comprehensive immigration reform that would include strengthening borders but also granting a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
This is the second time the federal government has stepped in to block a controversial state immigration law after it won a July 2010 court injunction against a similar controversial measure in Arizona.
Arizona governor Jan Brewer has vowed to take her state's fight to the US Supreme Court, saying it was essential for the battle against drug- and violence-scarred illegal immigration from Mexico to the south.
The Alabama law was harsher than what was proposed in Arizona as it would have required police to pursue illegal immigrants who had committed no other crime as well as making it a crime for them to work or seek employment.
Tough immigration laws in two other states, Utah and Georgia, were suspended by court order earlier this year.