A demonstrator holds a sign during an immigration rally in Arizona
Arizona has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take its case with the Obama administration over a tough anti-immigration law. The state wants a preliminary injunction blocking its most onerous provisions overturned. Reuters

The Obama administration's challenge to a strict Alabama immigration law escalated when the U.S. Department of Justice requested a federal appeals court to block the law from going into effect.

The Justice Department's bid for an injunction on a law it says steps on federal authority over immigration follows a judge's ruling that upheld the harshest provisions.

Lawyers in the Justice Department asked the appeals court to hear its argument quickly, as Hispanic immigrants and families are reportedly fleeing Alabama or taking their children out of school.

The balance of harms and the public interest strongly mitigate in favor of an injunction pending appeal, the Justice Department wrote in a Friday filing with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The statute has the purpose, and has already begun to have the effect, of driving aliens from the State of Alabama, thus imposing burdens on other states.

At Issue: Alabama Law Designed to Make Life for Illegal Immigrants/Undocumented Workers Difficult

Alabama, along with other states including Georgia and Arizona, has implemented a law this year to make life for illegal immigrants difficult. Supporters of these laws say they are addressing an illegal immigrant problem in their state created by the federal government's inaction.

In Alabama, the law forces immigrants to carry registration documents, makes leasing property to illegal immigrants a crime, prohibits them from soliciting work, invalidates their contracts and requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of those arrested or detained.

The law also requires public schools to determine a student's immigration status upon enrollment, as well as their parents' status. Illegal immigrants can still attend public school, but the data compiled and sent to the state.

The U.S. filed suit against Alabama, but U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn Sept, 28 upheld provisions requiring the collection of school children's status, preventing courts from enforcing contracts involving illegal immigrants and forcing police officers from holding suspected illegal immigrants without bond.

The judge also backed a provision requiring illegal immigrants to carry papers with them or face a misdemeanor.

Judge Blackburn did, however, block other parts of the law from being implemented, including a prohibition on illegal immigrants from soliciting work and criminalizing the harboring or transporting of an illegal immigrant.

The Justice Department said in its appeal that Judge Blackburn was correct in ruling that those provisions stepped into the federal government's domain.

The district court erred, however, when it failed to apply this same analysis to the other provisions of [Alabama's immigration law], which equally intrude into the federal government's exclusive control over the federal immigration laws, the Justice Department wrote in its appeal.

Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement Friday that an appeal from the Justice Department was expected.