Federal courts have consistently trimmed back attempts by states to write their own immigration laws. The Supreme Court overturned much of the Arizona immigration law in June, and federal judges have done the same to parts of laws in several Southern states. We saw another example of this yeterday, when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the state of Alabama and its draconian immigration law. However, the precedent set by the Supreme Court on Arizona did hold, and the “papers please” parts of immigration laws in Alabama and Georgia were upheld.

Part of Alabama’s immigration law that ordered public schools to check the citizenship of new students was ruled unconstitutional Monday by a federal appeals court that also said police in that state and Georgia could demand papers from criminal suspects they had detained.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Alabama schools provision wrongly singled out children who were in the country illegally. Alabama was the only state that passed such a requirement; the 11th Circuit previously had blocked that part of the law from being enforced [...]

The court upheld parts of immigration laws in Alabama and Georgia allowing law enforcement to check documents for people they stop.

Here’s the opinion. It appears that the new standard for the courts will be that local law enforcement can ask for documents, for the time being, barring a civil rights challenge down the road. I fully expect those challenges to emerge. But for the moment, law enforcement has a license to harass Hispanics they suspect of being in the country illegally.

Meanwhile, the one avenue of relief for a small section of undocumented immigrants, the Administration’s new deferred action policy, can be undermined by a simple citation from law enforcement:

Uriel Alberto would seem to be a strong candidate for the recent federal policy change that temporarily protects certain young, undocumented immigrants from deportation [...]

But like many young immigrants who would otherwise qualify, Alberto faces imminent deportation because of nonviolent scrapes with the law. The latest was in February after he was charged with disorderly conduct for protesting immigration legislation during a hearing at the North Carolina Legislature.

Alberto’s subsequent conviction and 15-day jail stay triggered a deportation detainer from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Given previous convictions — one, involving drinking and driving, was overturned on appeal Thursday — Alberto’s chances of qualifying for the deferred action program seem slim.

The policy excludes anyone “convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense or three or more misdemeanor offenses.”

There are no reliable estimates for the number of otherwise eligible young immigrants with misdemeanor records, according to representatives from ICE and the Migration Policy Institute, which tracks immigration issues. But many potential deferred-action applicants, like Alberto, are now struggling to remove or reduce minor convictions, immigration advocates say.

This creates a chilling effect on free speech, which can lead to the denial of deferred action status for the undocumented who bravely protested and actually put the pressure on to force the executive order into being. Hopefully, those who want to stay can work through the barriers as a result of their protest actions.