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Police officer stands at window of car issuing ticketMONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s governor on Thursday signed a tough new illegal immigration crackdown that contains provisions requiring public schools to determine students’ immigration status and making it a crime to knowingly give an illegal immigrant a ride.

The bill also allows police to arrest anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant if they’re stopped for any other reason. Alabama employers also are now required to use a federal system called E-Verify to determine if new workers are in the country legally.

Gov. Robert Bentley said the law is the nation’s toughest, and groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center agree. The groups say they plan to challenge it.

The legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mary Bauer, said Thursday that she expects a lawsuit to be filed before the provisions of law are scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1.

“It is clearly unconstitutional. It’s mean-spirited, racist and we think a court will enjoin it,” Bauer said.

Bentley, who campaigned on passing the toughest anti-illegal immigration bill possible, said he believes the measure can withstand legal challenges.

The House sponsor, Republican Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur, said the bill was written so that if any part of it is determined to be unconstitutional or violate federal law, the rest will stand.

Alabama’s measure was modeled on a similar law passed in Arizona. A federal judge blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s law last year after the Justice Department sued. A federal appeals court judge upheld the decision, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has said she plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Neighboring Georgia also passed a law cracking down on immigration this year, and civil liberties groups have filed a lawsuit trying to block it.

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