Federal Judge Hears Arguments on Georgia’s Anti-Immigrant Law

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 A federal judge heard arguments for and against Georgia’s recently signed immigration enforcement law, modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070. A host of civil and immigrant rights groups asked the judge to issue a preliminary injunction on the law, blocking it from implementation pending the outcome of their lawsuit. A decision is expected to be made before July 1, when HB 87 is scheduled to take effect.

Opponents of the law say that it violates the supremacy clause by usurping the federal government’s exclusive right to create and enforce immigration law. They also argue that it’s in violation of the Fourth Amendment by allowing police to detain people for extended periods of time while investigating their immigration status. The law also creates new state crimes of knowingly transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants while committing another crime, encouraging undocumented people to come to the sate, and presenting false documents when applying for a job.

In addition to addressing issues of constitutionality, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash questioned the law’s practicality, suggesting that it could not be enforced consistently across the state and would allow individual jurisdictions too much discretion. He also asked Senior Assistant Attorney General Devon Orland if the purpose of the law was to drive all undocumented immigrants out of Georgia. Orland argued that undocumented immigrants were costing Georgia millions of dollars by burdening hospitals and jails during a time of high unemployment, to which Thrash asked how putting more of those immigrants in jail would save the state money.

Thrash also repeatedly used the example of an 18-year-old U.S. citizen getting pulled over while driving an undocumented immigrant parent, and if that would constitute a crime under HB 87. Orland said that it would.

“What’s going to happen on July 1 to people associated with illegal aliens?” Thrash asked. “They’re supposed to go somewhere else with their husbands, wives, and children…even if they’re citizens?” Orland responded that the law was harsh but not unconstitutional. Read more here.