6/6/2011 5:06:00 AM,
Jacqueline J. Holness
N) - Ten unions and civil rights groups want Georgia's draconian immigration law enjoined before it takes effect July 1. The federal class action claims Georgia's "punitive and comprehensive immigration system" has the same constitutional defects as Arizona's law, parts of which already have been declared unconstitutional by an Arizona Federal Court and the 9th Circuit.
Lead defendant Gov. Nathan Deal signed H.B. 87 on May 13.
The plaintiffs, led by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, say the bill is "unconstitutional in its entirety."
They say "HB 87 is unconstitutional in myriad ways. It violates the Supremacy Clause and core civil rights and liberties secured by the U.S. Constitution, including the Fourth Amendment's right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, the Right to Travel, and the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantees to equal protection and due process under the law. It also violates separation-of powers safeguards in the Georgia Constitution."
The bill purportedly has four major objectives.
It "authorizes state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of individuals who do not carry one of a limited set of documents prescribed by the state, and to arrest individuals on suspicion that they have violated federal civil immigration laws";
it "creates new criminal immigration laws specific to and wholly administered by the State of Georgia";
it "denies public benefits to anyone unable to provide one of several enumerated documents that Georgia deems sufficient proof of identity";
and it "outlaws the use of consular identification cards, which several foreign governments issue to their citizens, for any official purpose."
The Georgia General Assembly approved HB 87 on April 14.
"The legislative record makes clear that a primary motivating factor in passing this law was the Georgia General Assembly's disagreement with federal immigration policy," the complaint states. The plaintiffs say the law usurps federal authority by subjecting Georgians, including U.S. citizens and non citizens who have federal permission to be in the United States, to unlawful interrogations, searches and seizures, and invites racial profiling.
Section 8 of HB 87 authorizes all Georgia peace officers to investigate the immigration status of people they stop for traffic violations and other routine stops.
In addition, Georgians will be forced to carry additional identification specified by the state.
"This is because HB 87 makes individuals who do not carry the prescribed documentation subject to lengthy investigations into immigration status that last over 80 minutes on average under the best case scenario," according to the complaint.
The accepted forms of identification are a "secure and verifiable document," defined in Section 19 of HB 87 as a valid Georgia driver's license, a valid Georgia identification card, a valid driver's license from an entity requiring proof of legal presence, a valid identification card issued by the federal government or a valid driver's license issued to a nonresident by his or her home state or country accompanied by proof of citizenship or legal residency.
The plaintiffs say the law may deprive Georgians of benefits to which they are entitled: "These deprivations will force individuals and families, including those with young children, to be without food and shelter, simply due to an inability to produce a qualifying identity document."
The plaintiffs also say the law will prevent them from carrying out their missions.
The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights "emphasizes community outreach to immigrant communities in Georgia in order to ease their transition into a new culture." It does this primarily through educating immigrant communities about Georgia laws. If HB takes effect, the alliance "will no longer be able to conduct education around local ordinances, and instead will have to focus all of its educational efforts on determining the effects of HB 87 and educating its members about it."
The alliance says that attendance has dropped sharply since Gov. Deal signed the bill. It says immigrants have told it "they are too afraid to attend these events because they believe that they will be targeted by the police based on their ethnic appearance."
Plaintiff DREAM Activist.org is a "multicultural, migrant youth-led movement [which seeks] to pass the DREAM Act, also known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act." It says: "If HB 87 takes effect, DREAM members are at risk of being subject to prolonged immigration status checks even if they are authorized by the federal government to remain in the United States."
Other plaintiffs include the Southern Regional Joint Board of Workers' United, Instituto de Mexico of Atlanta and the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center.
Individual plaintiffs say they could face criminal prosecution under HB 87, as it allows fines and jail terms for people who assist in "transporting or moving an illegal alien." Plaintiff Paul Bridges, mayor of Uvaulda, says he often helps interpret in schools and other settings, as he can speak English and Spanish. He also provides transportation for "undocumented individuals" to the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta. In addition, he has traveled to Florida to pick up friends, some of whom are undocumented, and has given them rides to Georgia and has housed them in his home.
The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and others. The lead attorney is Naomi Tsu.