By Mike Lillis - 08/29/11 08:16 PM EDT
A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked Alabama from implementing one of the strictest anti-illegal immigrant laws in the country.
Without ruling on the merits of the law, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn said she needed additional time to consider a series of lawsuits filed against it.
Enacted in June, the law makes it an explicit crime to be an illegal immigrant in Alabama while empowering police to hold those they have "reasonable suspicion" of being undocumented. It also penalizes businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers while requiring schools to scrutinize students' legal status as well.
Supporters say such tough steps are necessary to prevent illegal immigrants from claiming state-based jobs and absorbing expensive social services. Critics counter that it violates the human rights of an entire swath of the state's population.
In a Monday editorial, The New York Times labeled it "the nation’s cruelest immigration law."
The three separate suits challenging the law were filed by the Department of Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union and an alliance of state religious leaders.