By Mike Lillis - 11/22/11 07:56 PM EST
Dozens of House Democrats have joined the Obama administration's lawsuit against Alabama's contentious new law against illegal immigrants.
Behind Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), 39 lawmakers endorsed an amicus brief Monday backing the Justice Department's challenge to Alabama's strict new law, known as HB 56. The Democrats maintain the state law is unconstitutional because it preempts existing federal law.
"HB 56 adds layers of punitive measures targeting Alabama residents that are inconsistent with federal policy," he added. "Congress has the responsibility to balance many concerns in legislating federal immigration policy, such as law enforcement, the economy, family unity, education, civil rights, and so on."
Other Democrats backing the suit include Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democratic whip, Xavier Becerra (Calif.), vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (Minn.), the co-chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Enacted last summer, the Alabama law makes it an explicit crime to be an illegal immigrant in the state, while empowering police to hold those they have "reasonable suspicion" of being undocumented. It also penalizes businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers and requires schools to determine students' legal status before enrolling them.
Supporters say such tough rules are needed to prevent illegal immigrants from stealing state-based jobs and absorbing expensive social services. Critics counter that it violates the human rights of those targeted.
Aside from the DOJ challenge, there are two other lawsuits pending against the Alabama law — one filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the other by an alliance of state religious leaders.