Posted: 1:42 pm EDT June 2, 2011Updated: 2:12 pm EDT June 2, 2011
ATLANTA — Georgia’s new immigration reform law doesn’t officially go into effect until July 1, but several civil rights organizations announced Thursday they have already filed a class action lawsuit to stop it.The American Civil Liberties Union along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups said in a news release they’ve filed the suit because the new law “endangers public safety, invites racial profiling of Latinos, Asians and others who appear foreign to an officer and interferes with federal law.””Georgia’s law is fundamentally un-American,” said ACLU attorney Omar Jadwat in the written release. “The courts have blocked Arizona and Utah’s law from going into effect. Georgia should be prepared for the same outcome.”But the Peachtree City lawmaker who wrote HB87 disagrees. State Rep. Matt Ramsey told Channel Two’s Richard Elliot that they expected legal challenges to the new law, so he said they worked hard to make sure it passed constitutional muster.”We’ve known since we started working on this process six months ago that ultimately whatever we put on paper, a fringe group like the ACLU was going to file a lawsuit,” said Rep. Ramsey. “We worked very hard and very diligently to make sure the provisions were drafted with that in mind…to make sure it was ultimately going to pass muster in the courts.”The law, which was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal just last month, requires employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check the immigration status of all new employees. The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the Arizona version of that same provision.But other federal courts blocked another portion of the Arizona law allowing police to check the immigration status of people they thought might be in the country illegally. Rep. Ramsey pointed out Georgia’s law is different in that police cannot simply check the immigration status of people without cause. They must first be criminal suspects before such a check can take place.”Only if you are unable to provide an approved form of identification or verbal information that will allow the officer to independently verify who you are, only then is an immigration status check going to be warranted,” said Rep. Ramsey. “We think that’s a good, reasonable common sense step.”But Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Mary Bauer disagrees. In the statement, she said, “This law undermines our core American values of fairness and equality.”The plaintiff’s in the class action lawsuit have scheduled a news conference on the steps of the state Capitol at 2 p.m.