A federal judge in Birmingham has blocked enforcement of several employment-related portions of Alabama’s state law on illegal immigration, but left others intact.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn issued a 115-page ruling that enjoined the state from enforcing several provisions of the law, considered to be the toughest anti-illegal immigration law in the country.  The Obama administration filed suit against the state, arguing that the subject of immigration control is largely reserved to the federal government.

Judge Blackburn enjoined the provision banning employers from deducting wages paid to an illegal alien as a business expense and allowing discrimination lawsuits against companies that dismiss legal workers while hiring illegal immigrants.  She also enjoined a provision making it a crime for an illegal alien to seek paid work in Alabama.

But she did not block Section 15 of the law, which prohibits employers from hiring illegal immigrants and requires all employers–regardless of size–to enroll in the otherwise optional federal E-Verify program.  She also let stand a provision barring illegal aliens from obtaining contracts with the state.

Del Marsh, the Republican president pro tem of the Alabama Senate, said in a statement after Wednesday’s ruling, “Our goal has always been to make sure Alabama jobs and taxpayer-funded resources are going to legal Alabama residents, and Judge Blackburn’s ruling is a significant win for this cause.”

The  judge also entered a preliminary injunction against other provisions in the law, known as H.B. 56, including Section 8, which would have prevented many illegal immigrants from attending state colleges, and Section 13, which would have made transporting or renting to an undocumented immigrant for more than one night a crime.

The ruling was interpreted by some observers as increasing the chance that the Supreme Court will eventually hear challenges to state laws on immigration.

“Judge Blackburn seems to believe it’s not a crime for an undocumented immigrant to solicit work but it is a crime for an undocumented person to do business with the state,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration scholar at Cornell University Law School. “The Supreme Court needs to decide this issue once and for all.”