A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia [official website] on Monday blocked [order, PDF] two sections of the state's controversial immigration bill [HB 87 text] that was signed into law last month [JURIST report]. Judge Thomas Thrash issued a preliminary injunction at the request of the plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) [advocacy websites] and other rights groups, which filed a motion for preliminary injunction [text, PDF] in early June to block the Georgia immigration law from going into effect. The motion came one week after the groups filed a class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in the district court against the bill. Thrash dismissed the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment, due process, equal protection and right to travel claims, but indicated that the plaintiffs would likely succeed on their Supremacy Clause and preemption claims. Thrash granted the injunction request for sections 7 and 8 of HB 87, saying that the plaintiffs would face irreparable harm should the law take effect and that the public interest weighed in favor of issuing the injunction. The bill, which was scheduled to take effect on July 1, allows law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status when questioning suspects in criminal investigations. The law also imposes fines and prison sentences of up to one year for anyone who knowingly transports illegal immigrants during the commission of a crime, and requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify [official website] system to check the immigration status of potential employees, providing that workers convicted of using fake identification to gain employment could face up to 15 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
The Georgia suit does not mark the first time the ACLU and other groups have taken legal action against immigration laws in recent months. Last month, the ACLU filed a class action suit challenging an Indiana immigration law [JURIST report] that requires individuals to provide proof of their legal status at all times and calls for all public meetings, websites and documents to be in English only. Also last month, the ACLU and other groups filed a class action suit against a Utah immigration law [JURIST report] that requires police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested for an alleged felony or serious misdemeanor. Federal judges have enjoined both the Indiana and Utah laws [JURIST reports]. Similar legislation has been approved in Alabama, Virginia and Oklahoma [JURIST reports]. Arizona's legislation, signed into law last April, is currently enjoined, and Governor Jan Brewer has pledged to appeal to the US Supreme Court [JURIST reports].