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ACLU, Other Groups Take Georgia Immigration Law to Court

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georgia immigration lawThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center, and several other groups are taking Georgia’s new “show-me-your-papers” law to court. The groups filed a federal lawsuit yesterday to halt provisions that would allow local law enforcement to check for immigration papers. It would require many businesses to do the same with employees.

Georgia’s harsh new immigration law, signed last month despite overwhelming opposition from business, student, immigrant, and faith groups, allows police to double as immigration officers who can demand papers from those they suspect are undocumented.  It requires businesses to check the legal status of their employees and makes it difficult for undocumented individuals to receive aid from state facilities or services.  Perhaps most stringently, it criminalizes all Georgians who transport or harbor undocumented immigrants.  The New York Times has called the Georgia legislation one of the harshest immigration laws in the United States; its critics say it encourages racial profiling and undermines federal policy.  Most provisions in the law are scheduled to take effect July 1.

A joint press release from the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the ACLU, and the Civil Rights Coalition quotes Karen Tumlin, managing attorney with NILC:

Georgia’s HB 87 is out of step with fundamental values and the rule of law.  It gives Georgians a reason to fear that they may be stripped of their constitutional rights simply because of the way they look or sound.  Laws that promote this kind of barebones discrimination are out of step with history and cannot be allowed to stand.  We are confident that the court will agree that unconstitutional attempts to drive a wedge between Georgian communities should not be allowed.

The press release tells the story of Paul J. Edwards, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, a devout Christian, and a member of a local faith group.  Edwards believes in helping all individuals regardless of their immigration status and regularly performs acts of kindness that, among other things, involve transporting people to places of worship and places that provide medical assistance.  Under the Georgia law, he would be subject to criminal liability for assisting, transporting, and harboring undocumented immigrants if any of these individuals were found without papers.