ATLANTA — Alabama and Georgia on Thursday asked a federal appeals court to delay action on legal challenges to their tough new laws targeting illegal immigration pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a similar challenge to Arizona's immigration law, the states' attorneys general said in a joint statement.
The Supreme Court said Monday it would review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked parts of the Arizona law. One part requires that police, while enforcing other laws, question a person's immigration status if officers suspect he is in the country illegally.
The Obama administration challenged the Arizona law, arguing that regulating immigration is the job of the federal government, not states. Similar laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah also are facing administration lawsuits. Private groups are suing over immigration measures adopted in Georgia and Indiana.
"It is clear that the Supreme Court's ruling in Arizona's case will be relevant to the 11th Circuit's consideration of our appeal," said Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. "We strongly believe that, as the Supreme Court has said before, immigration is a partnership between the states and the federal government, and we hope that the Court will reaffirm that partnership."
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange echoed his sentiments and added his support for Arizona.
"Alabama has supported Arizona in its legal effort from the beginning, and Alabama will continue to vigorously support Arizona as the case moves to the Supreme Court," he said. "It is vital that all of our effort and attention be focused on helping Arizona win, and we hope to take a leadership role in the amicus process to do just that."
Sam Brooke, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is one of the parties challenging the law, said the organization's reaction is divided.
The law in Alabama "is continuing to cause havoc in our state because several provisions have been permitted to go into effect, and are in effect today. We oppose any request that these harms be permitted to continue, and oppose Alabama's request for a stay," he said. "Since the parts we challenged are enjoined in Georgia, we did not oppose the request for a stay by Georgia."
In South Carolina, Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a similar request Thursday, asking that that state's law be allowed to go into effect Jan. 1 as scheduled. Opponents have asked a federal judge to halt the law until a legal challenge by activist groups and the federal government can be resolved. A hearing on the challenge is set for Monday.
The Utah attorney general's office said Thursday it doesn't plan to seek a delay but it does expect the U.S. Department of Justice to try to delay its case.
"We will ask the courts to hear the lawsuit immediately but the Department of Justice will likely oppose our motion to have it heard immediately," said Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
The attorney general's office in Indiana did not immediately comment on whether it would seek a delay.
Associated Press writer Lynn DeBruin in Salt Lake City, Utah contributed to this report.