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Georgia Can Start Enforcing Racial Profiling Provision in Anti-Immigration Law

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In the wake of Arizona’s SB 1070, Georgia’s legislature got caught up in the anti-immigrant frenzy and passed a harsh “show me your papers” law. This week, that provision took effect:

Georgia state and local police may start enforcing one of the most controversial parts of the state’s immigration law for the first time now that a federal judge has lifted an injunction he placed against it.

The statute — nicknamed by critics as “the show-me-your-papers law” — gives police the option to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. It also empowers police to detain people determined to be in the country illegally and take them to jail.

Partly modeled after a similar measure in Arizona, Georgia’s law is aimed at protecting taxpayer resources by pushing illegal immigrants out of the state. Georgia has the ninth-largest population among states. But it ranked sixth last year for the estimated number of illegal immigrants living within its borders, at 440,000, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Instead of “protecting taxpayer resources,” the new law damaged Georgia’s economy, as we noted last May:

Writing at Huffington Post on the anniversary of the passage of Georgia’s harsh anti-immigrant law, Azadeh Shahshahani, the Director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia, notes that while parts of the egregious law have been enjoined by federal courts, “the law’s harmful effects are already being felt across Georgia.” Shahshahani outlines some of those harms:

As a result of the passage of this racial profiling legislation, Georgia has suffered reputational harm. At least two organizations, the U.S. Human Rights Network and the American Educational Research Association, have moved their conventions elsewhere.

Georgia’s largest industry is also suffering. Farmers who relied on the immigrant workforce are in trouble,whether or not they ever hired undocumented workers. The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association estimates that as a result of HB 87, Georgia’s economy may lose $391 million and 3,260 jobs. One such job in the agricultural community may support as many as three “upstream” jobs. Other estimates have put the economic loss for Georgia farmers at between $300 million and $1 billion. Thousands of acres of onions, cotton, melons, and other crops have not been harvested due to an acute labor shortage that is a direct result of HB 87. Additionally, a switch from crops harvested by hand to crops harvested by machine will cost a farm up to $1.2 million due to the difference in the value of such crops. Every person in Georgia who farms, transports or sells farm produce, runs a business that depends on the patronage of farmers or buys groceries will feel the impact of this law.

The economic damage was self-induced.  Now, Georgia can also begin implementing the ugly racial profiling provision of its law–and of course, there’s no guarantee they won’t racially profile.  But as advocates made clear, the fight isn’t over:

But the activists who sued to block it say they won’t hesitate to file suit again if they find evidence police are violating people’s civil rights through prolonged traffic stops.

“Any type of violations of individuals’ rights — including prolonged detention — is something we will be looking for, documenting and will bring back to court,” said Karen Tumlin, a managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, which is part of a coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups that sued to block the statute.