Undocumented Immigrants
Undocumented immigrants hide their faces as they wait to be deported from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement holding facility in Phoenix, May 6, 2010. REUTERS

A federal judge said that parts of Albama's new immigration law could be unconstitutional, citing a controversial provision that requires police to check the status of detained immigrants.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn was holding a hearing on Wednesday on legal challenges brought against the law by the federal government, the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of church groups. The law's advocates maintain that it strengthens lax immigration enforcement, but critics have slammed the law as a violation of basic civil rights.

There are a lot of problems with this statute, Blackburn said in reference to the police checks. My job is to decide if this is constitutional.

In addition to empowering law enforcement officers to arrest anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, the law requires status checks before immigrants can enroll their children in school or obtain public housing and levels a ban on transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants.

Detractors said such measures make it impossible for immigrants to carry on basic aspects of their lives, from getting an education to catching a ride to church, and the ACLU lawsuit charges that the measures violate the Equal Protection Clause, which stipulates that no state shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

A state may not make it impossible for someone to live in this country, said William Orrick, attorney for the Justice Department. Orrick also said that the law tries to usurp the federal government's authority over immigration enforcement, an argument the Obama administration made in attacking a similar law in Arizona.

Blackburn will need to act swiftly to strike down aspects of the law, which will go into effect on Sept. 1.

I know she's very cognizant of the Sept. 1 date, Augusta Dowd, an attorney for the religious groups, told The Associated Press.