Federal Judge Throws Out Two Provisions of Georgia’s Immigrant Law
(APN) ATLANTA — On June 27, 2011, US District Judge Thomas Thrash, Jr., put on hold two core parts of HB 87 which would have gone into effect July 1. His ruling blocks police from asking about immigration status during investigations of criminal violations. Investigations into someone going a few miles over the speed limit, rolling a stop sign, or driving without proper equipment could be mere pretexts to investigate someone’s immigration status.
Also blocked by Judge Thrash’s ruling is the provision that would have criminalized the acts of transporting or housing an undocumented immigrant or inducing an undocumented immigrant to come to Georgia.
“State and local law enforcement officers and officials have no authorization to arrest, detain or prosecute anyone based upon sections 7 and 8 of HB 87 while this injunction remains in effect,” Thrash ruled.
During the pleminary hearing, observed by Atlanta Progressive News, Devon Orland, Senior Assistant Attorney General for the State of Georgia, argued the intent of the laws was to protect the state’s resources. “The state has millions going for medical care and millions going to jails,” Orland argured.
Judge Thrash asked Orland, “If an 18 year-old US citizen is taking his illegal immigrant mother to the grocery store and is stopped by a police officer for exceeding the speed limit, will the 18 year old become a criminal and go to jail?”
“Yes, the law is unkind and harsh but it is the law,” Orland said. “It would be no different than if his mother had pockets full of cocaine, and he was knowingly transporting her to go sell it.”
“The apparent legislative intent is to create such a climate of hostility, fear, mistrust and insecurity that all illegal aliens will leave Georgia,” Thrash wrote in his decision to ban sections of HB 87.
“The court decision is a positive step forward but our communities still face discrimination from police empowered by the Obama administration’s 287(g) and secure communities programs,” Adelina Nicholls, Executive Director of Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), said.
“The criminalization of migrants is the wrong direction for our country regardless of whether it is state laws or federal programs propagating it. We now need an injunction on the federal level to stop programs that separate families. We need to turn toward a pathway for legalization,” Nicholls said.
“I think the law is enacted out of hostility toward the immigrant community. Laws that are enacted out of hostility tend to be bad laws and tend to fail. The purpose of the law is to scapegoat and target both people who are here without status and their families members, friends, neighbors and people who help them and this is not Georgia’s decision to make,” Omar Jadwat, lead council with the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) Immigrants Rights Project, said.
Judge Thrash cited a previous court decision that said preliminary injunctions were in the public interest “when civil rights are at stake.” He also wrote that state officials were attempting to overstep federal authority on immigration enforcement.
Governor Nathan Deal’s office weighed in with this: “Beyond refusing to help with our state’s illegal immigration problem, the federal government is determined to be an obstacle. The state of Georgia narrowly tailored its immigration law to conform with existing federal law and court rulings,” Brian Robinson, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications, said. “Georgians can rest assured that this battle doesn’t end here.”
“Obviously, I am disappointed that Judge Thrash chose to impose an injunction on parts of HB 87,” State Sen. Jack Murphy, a Republican, said.
“Still, I think it is important to point out that we spent a lot of time researching and crafting this law to ensure that it is Constitutional. The plaintiffs in this case made five arguments as to why it should be ruled unconstitutional. The judge threw out four of those arguments. I am certain this law is Constitutional and I am certain an appeals court will reverse the judge’s ruling that HB 87 is possibly preempted by federal law. After all, this law simply follows existing federal law,” Murphy said.
Paul Bridges, Mayor of Uvalda, Georgia, a conservative Republican and one of more than a dozen plaintifs suing Georgia and Governor Deal over HB 87 says Deal is “fanning anti-immigrant sentiment without facts.”
“The immigrant community is a big part of the economy of Georgia. These people earn money and pay taxes just like the rest of us,” Bridges said.
The Georgia lawsuit is only the latest nationwide legal battle between state and federal officials over who controls immigration enforcement.
A federal judge in Utah blocked an immigration enforcement law only 24 hours after it went into effect. The ACLU filed a similar lawsuit against a new Indiana immigration law, also scheduled to go into effect July 01, 2011.
In April 2011, a three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the U. S. Justice Department and against Arizona SB 1070. Arizona’s Governor, Jan Brewer, announced that the state would appeal directly to the Supreme Court of the US.
(END / 2011)