Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law was recently sustained by the U.S. Supreme Court, likely enabling Georgia’s police to begin enforcing parts of Georgia’s own immigration statute. State lawyers are currently battling a coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups over Georgia’s law in Atlanta’s federal appeals court. The coalition believes that the law would directly undermine the federal government’s authority in setting immigration policy and managing foreign relations. The law is currently suspended, pending the court’s decision.
One of the key issues surrounded the legal battle is a provision that would allow local and state police to investigate a suspect’s immigration status if they cannot produce identification and are accused of committing state or federal crimes. Additionally, those who knowingly harbor or transport illegal immigrants within the state of Georgia while committing another crime would be liable for further legal punishments. Both of these statutes have come under fire, with civil rights activists claiming they are unconstitutional. Georgia’s Republican-majority legislature passed the law last year.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, some 325,000 illegal immigrants were a part of the Georgia workforce in 2010. The law has been on hold since June of last year when a federal district court judge answered a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union in cooperation with a coalition of smaller groups. Following the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s law, the state has appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
State attorneys believe that by rule of precedence, the Georgia law should be upheld because it “replicates” the Arizona law, nicknamed the “show-me-your-papers law.” The Supreme Court found that when practical, police would be allowed to investigate the immigration status of a suspect when there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.