Shomial Ahmad (2011-06-21)
ACLU Attorney Omar Jadwat talking to reporters after the federal court hearing. Credit: Shomial Ahmad
ATLANTA, GA (WABE) – State and civil liberties groups argued for and against parts of Georgia’s immigration law yesterday. The federal court judge’s questioning zeroed in on the primary purpose of Georgia’s law.
Immigrant advocates characterize Georgia’s immigration law as a copycat law to Arizona, because it gives increased power to local law enforcement in immigration matters. But unlike the Arizona statute, the Georgia law does not have an explicitly defined intent. Arizona’s law clearly states its intent: to decrease the number of illegal immigrants in the state.
Federal court judge Thomas Thrash tried to determine a purpose for the Georgia law. He asked Devon Orland, representing the state, if the purpose is to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia or make sure they don’t come in the first place.
Orland continually responded that the law’s purpose was to save state resources, millions in health care and jailing costs.
Under repeated questioning, eventually, Orland said if immigrants are here illegally, they need to go soon.
Afterwards, D.A. King, a strong supporter of the bill, expressed dismay at the focus of the judge’s questioning.
“I hope that the purpose of the law is intended to protect all of our citizens and immigrants. And if illegal aliens leave because we’ve made life very difficult for them in Georgia, all the better.”
But Omar Jadwat, an ACLU attorney arguing the case, sees the law punishing more than illegal immigrants.
“I think the purpose of the law is to scapegoat and target both people who are here without status and their family members and their friends, and their neighbors. And again, it’s really not Georgia’s decision to make.”
Thrash says he intends to deliver a ruling on the case before July 1st.
Shomial Ahmad, WABE News.