Multiple plaintiffs mounted a challenge to Georgia’s new immigration bill last week.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus, and several other civil rights groups filed a lawsuit on June 2 against House Bill 87. The full name of the law is the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.”
Unique among the plaintiffs is the Republican mayor of Uvalda, Ga., a tiny town in the region where Vidalia onions are grown. According to the ACLU, Paul W. Bridges speaks Spanish and often provides translation services and rides to residents, and is concerned about a provision in the law that makes it a criminal act to help or harbor an illegal immigrant.
The lawsuit charges that HB 87 is unconstitutional. The Georgia law is not identical to the Arizona law. The most controversial part of the Arizona bill had to do with law enforcement officers verifying immigration status—the so-called “papers, please” provision.
The lawsuit says the legislation will lead to racial profiling of individuals who appear foreign, that it interferes with federal authority over immigration, violates the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable search and seizure, and discriminates against people who hold certain kinds of identity documents.
According to the Marietta Daily Journal, activist D. A. King said the lawsuit had no merit. “But, no one should be surprised at the baseless court action. These are the usual suspects whose hatred of American values and immigration laws is widely known and contrary to the majority of American’s principles and desires. These radicals have no legal ground to stand on and have no trace of any shame.”
King is president of the Dustin Ingram Society, which is named after a man who was murdered by an illegal immigrant. Marietta is a historic city in Cobb County, near Atlanta. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, also from conservative Cobb County, told the Journal that he too thinks the suit will not be successful.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed the law without fanfare and has been silent about it. As a congressman and a gubernatorial candidate, he often spoke of the need for stronger immigration laws and stronger enforcement of immigration laws.
Omar Jadwat, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a press release, “Georgia’s law is fundamentally un-American. We are not a ‘show me your papers’ country, nor one that believes in making certain people ‘untouchables’ that others should be afraid to assist, house, or transport.” Arizona’s SB 1070 was blocked by the courts from going into effect. According to Jadwat, Georgia should prepare for the same outcome.
Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the Georgia ACLU, stated in a press release, “The extreme law criminalizes everyday folks who have daily interactions with undocumented individuals in their community, making people of faith and others vulnerable to arrest and detention while conducting acts of charity and kindness.”
“This law encourages racial profiling of Asian-Americans and immigrants, and must be struck down,” according to Sin Yen Ling, a senior staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus in a press release.
Other parties to the lawsuit include the Georgia Latina Alliance for Human Rights, Service Employees International Union, the Southern Regional Joint Board of Workers United, Alterna, Coalition of Latino Leaders, Task Force for the Homeless, DreamActivit.org, Instituto de Mexico, Coalition for the People’s Agenda, and the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center.
Georgia is the third state to pass its own immigration law. Utah and Indiana passed immigration laws earlier this year, however, the federal district court put a hold on Utah’s pending further review. Utah’s law is different from the others because it provides for a guest worker program. Illegal immigrants who are otherwise law abiding could get permission to stay and work legally for a time under Utah’s law.
The Supreme Court will ultimately address the issue if lower courts cannot reach a conclusion.