Lawsuit Filed to Challenge Georgia’s Anti-Immigrant Law
(APN) ATLANTA — On Thursday, June 02, 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus, and a coalition of other organizations including civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit challenging Georgia’s discriminatory anti-immigrant law passed last month and inspired by Arizona’s notorious SB 1070.
“This law undermines our core American values of fairness and equality,” Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said during a press conference held at the Georgia Capitol.
“By perpetuating the hate rhetoric that has become commonplace among many elected officials, this law threatens the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike by encouraging racial profiling. Sadly, too, it places Georgia on the wrong side of history,” Bauer said.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Additional organizations supporting the lawsuit include Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Service Employees International Union, the Southern Regional Joint Board of Workers United, Alterna, Coalition of Latino Leaders, Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, DreamActivist.org, Instituto de Mexico, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, and the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center.
The lawsuit charges that Georgia’s law, HB 87, is unconstitutional because it unlawfully interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution; authorizes and requires unreasonable seizures and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment; restricts the constitutional right to travel freely throughout the United States; and violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the US Constitution by unlawfully discriminating against people who hold certain kinds of identity documents.
“Since the passage of HB 87, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) has already received complaints especially from Cobb and Gwinnett Counties of immigrants being pulled over by the police without committing a traffic offense. One person told us that since the passage of HB 87 he has been stopped three times because of his Latino appearance even through he is a citizen,” Adelina Nicholls, Executive Director, GLAHR explained. “In general, there is a feeling of freedom for law enforcement officers to target immigrants in Georgia following the passage of HB 87.”
Georgia is the third state to have enacted laws emulating Arizona’s controversial and costly SB 1070, even though the Arizona law was blocked by the courts, following Utah and Indiana. After an ACLU and NILC lawsuit, a federal district court last month put Utah’s law on hold pending further review.
“It is wrong for us to try to regulate immigration on a state level when we are talking about not just a national problem but a worldwide problem that is caused by the globalization of our economic system that forces working people to follow jobs. Now we have people who have to migrate from one country to another just to feed their families. We do not need to blame the innocent victims of globalization for the problems that are caused by globalization,” Harris L Raynor, Southern Regional Director and Vice President, Workers United, SEIU said.
“It was the pale, male, and stale people in the Republican party and the State legislature that allowed this legislation to become law. I hope the people of Georgia elect a new legislature that looks a little more like them,” Raynor predicts.
“The call of our ministry, Alterna, is to offer accompaniment, advocacy, and hospitality to Latin American immigrants in Georgia. Accompaniment could easily be redefined as transporting and thus criminalized by this new law. Hospitality, the ancient tradition of my Christian faith, could be redefined as harboring and turn me, a follower of Jesus Christ, into a criminal,” Anton Flores, Executive Director of Alterna, said.
“In my local community of LaGrange, Georgia, the police chief has gone on public record saying he refuses to certify that individual undocumented immigrants are victims of violent crimes because those requests for victim certification are ‘nothing more than a manipulation of our immigration laws.’ If we have police chiefs making those type of statements what will be reinforced with the enactment of this unjust law?” Flores asked.
“This law pits neighbor against neighbor, family members against family members, and will turn many of us into criminals June 01 for helping our neighbors and family members,” Paul Bridges, Mayor of Uvalda, Georgia, and one of the plaintiffs on the lawsuit, said.
“The immigrants who pick our Vidalia onions and other crops work fast and we can’t get that kind of skilled labor otherwise,” he said.
Attorneys on the case include Omar Jadwat, Andre Segura, Elora Mukherjee, Cecillia D. Wang, and Kate Desormeau of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Karen Tumlin, Linton Joaquin, Nora A. Preciado, Melissa S. Keaney, Tanya Broder, and Jonathan Blazer of the National Immigration Law Center; Bauer, Andrew H. Turner, Samuel Brooke, Naomi Tsu, Michelle R. Lapointe, and Daniel Werner of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Chara Fisher Jackson and Azadeh N. Shahshahani of the ACLU of Georgia; G. Brian Spears; Ling of the Asian Law Caucus; R. Keegan Federal, Jr. of Federal & Hassan, LLP.; and Charles H. Kuck and Danielle M. Conley of Kuck Immigration Partners, LLC.
(END / 2011)