Atlanta – A federal appeals court today ruled that Georgia could ask residents to prove their immigration status when they are stopped by police, but the court said it was unconstitutional for Alabama to check the immigration status of school children when they enroll, or to require illegal immigrants to carry identification.
The ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, will add to a puzzling quilt of immigration laws across the southern band of the country, from Arizona to Alabama to Georgia to South Carolina, all trying to do as much as they can to discourage illegal immigrants from moving to their states.
With the court ruling, Georgia is now free to start enforcing its immigration law, which was on hold awaiting the court’s decision. The court did keep in place the injunction in Georgia blocking the prosecution of people who knowingly harbor or transport an illegal immigrant during the commission of a crime. It also struck down a provision of Alabama’s law barring residents from entering into contracts with people in the state illegally. The court said these provisions were intruding into federal jurisdiction.
“Given the federal primacy in the field of enforcing prohibitions on the transportation, harboring, and inducement of unlawfully present aliens, the prospect of 50 individual attempts to regulate immigration-related matters cautions against permitting states to intrude into this area of dominant federal concern,” the ruling stated.
The ACLU, which challenged the law, welcomed the ruling.
“The court today rejected many parts of Alabama and Georgia’s anti-immigrant laws, including attempts to criminalize everyday interactions with undocumented immigrants and Alabama’s callous attempt to deprive some children of their constitutional right to education, ” said Omar Jadwat, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The court explicitly left the door open to further challenges against the ‘show me your papers’ provision, which we will continue to fight in order to protect people’s constitutional rights.”