- "The more we hear, the more concerned we are," says a federal official
- Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez cites reports of school absences
- He said some employers may be using the law as an excuse not to pay workers
Top Justice Department officials met with Alabama business groups and community leaders in Birmingham Monday to express concern about what the officials consider the negative implications of the state's new immigration law.
"The more we hear, the more concerned we are about the impact of Alabama's immigration law on a wide range of federal rights," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the chief federal enforcer of civil rights.
Perez cited continuing reports of children dropping out of school or being chronically absent from school, possibly as a result of their immigration status.
The 39 school districts for which he requested detailed enrollment and attendance data are cooperating with the federal officials, Perez said.
He warned, however, that other problems have surfaced, raising concerns. He said certain employers may be using the law as an excuse not to pay workers. He said he is receiving reports of racial profiling in which individuals are "being stopped simply because of their appearance."
Perez also said Justice officials are increasingly concerned that some victims of domestic violence are being driven further underground because they no longer see courts as a safe haven.
The assistant attorney general also noted concern about access to housing free from discrimination.
Assistant Attorney General Tony West, who leads the Justice Department's Civil Division, told Alabama community leaders he will continue to challenge state immigration laws that preempt federal authority to enforce federal statutes.
"In bringing these lawsuits the Justice Department isn't just trying to vindicate an important legal principle called preemption; we're also deeply concerned about the real-world implications a patchwork of state immigration laws has," West said.
To date, the Justice Department has challenged immigrations laws passed in Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah. All are currently before federal courts.
West said the Justice Department continues to review state immigration-laws passed in Indiana and Georgia, but has not yet filed suit against those two states.