The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The first committee hearing for major legislation targeting illegal immigration in Georgia had not even gotten under way Friday morning before the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to challenge the measure in court.
ACLU officials said House Bill 87 and a similar bill in the Senate called SB 40 resemble Arizona laws that were halted by a federal judge last year after the Obama administration challenged their constitutionality.
The House Judicial Non-Civil Committee is scheduled to take up HB 87 in a committee hearing Friday morning. Committee Chairman Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, predicted the hearing could attract so many speakers that it could stretch into Friday afternoon. He has already scheduled a second hearing for the bill for Tuesday morning.
“The proposed bills are unconstitutional and violate core American values,” Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a prepared statement released early Friday. “The ACLU of Georgia will challenge such racial profiling legislation if passed in Georgia.”
The authors of the bills — Rep. Matt Ramsey and Sen. Jack Murphy — have argued their bills are constitutional and include protections against racial profiling.
“This is just the latest example of why the ACLU has become completely marginalized as a tool of extreme left-wing causes,” said Ramsey, a Republican from Peachtree City. “They are out of touch and out of the mainstream and not interested in addressing any of the real problems facing the citizens of our state.”
Murphy said this week that he likes SB 40’s chances in court and sees indications that an appeals court will reverse much of the judge’s rulings against Arizona.
“I believe that this bill will stand up to federal challenges,” Murphy said, “and when the 9th Circuit Appeals Court hands down its ruling, there will be no need for anyone to challenge Georgia law.”
Similar to one of the Arizona laws halted by the federal judge, Ramsey’s and Murphy’s bills would require state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of certain people they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally. They also would authorize police to arrest them if they are in the country illegally and transport them to a federal jail.
The Georgia legislation would also require certain private businesses to use a federal program called E-Verify. That program seeks to verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States.
Friday’s legislative hearing comes two days after the Mexican ambassador to the United States said some of Georgia’s legislation targeting illegal immigration is “poisoning” the relationship between the two countries. Ambassador ArturoSarukhan suggested such bills also could produce unintended consequences, including racial profiling, human rights violations and damage to the economy.
Golick blasted Sarukhan’s comments in a prepared statement sent to reporters Thursday.
“The arrogance displayed by the Mexican government is absolutely breathtaking,” Golick said. “The Mexican government has inappropriately injected itself into a debate where it has no role, and its suggestion that we are wrong to seek to enforce our laws is an insult to every law-abiding citizen of Georgia.”