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The epicenter of the fight over the patchwork of immigration laws in the United States is not Arizona, which shares a border with Mexico and became a common site for boycotts. Nor was it any of the four states that were next to pass their own crackdowns.

No, the case that's likely to be the first sorted out by the U.S. Supreme Court comes from the Deep South state of Alabama, where the nation's strictest immigration law has resurrected ugly images from the state's days as the nation's battleground for civil rights a half-century ago.

And Alabama's jump to the forefront says as much about the country's evolving demographics as it does the nation's collective memory of the state's sometimes violent path to desegregation.

With the failure of Congress in recent years to pass comprehensive federal immigration legislation, Arizona, Georgia, Utah, South Carolina and Indiana have passed their own. But supporters and opponents alike agree none contained provisions as strict as those passed in Alabama, among them one that required schools to check students' immigration status. That provision, which has been temporarily blocked, would allow the Supreme Court to reconsider a decision that said a kindergarten to high school education must be provided to illegal immigrants.



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