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Federal judge blocks key part of Georgia immigration law

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia [official website] on Wednesday permanently blocked a key provision in Georgia's immigration law that criminalized knowingly transporting or harboring an illegal immigrant during the course of any other crime. Judge Thomas Thrash struck down [AP report] this provision, reasoning that the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] already held that this portion of Georgia's immigration law was preempted by federal law. In addition, Thrash ordered [AJC report] the state to inform Georgia's law enforcement agencies of his decision so that state agencies do not enforce that provision of the immigration law. The provision would have carried a punishment of up to 12 months in prison and fines of up to $1,000. The lawsuit was brought into federal court by civil and immigrant rights groups who argued that the provision was unconstitutional.

Immigration laws [JURIST backgrounder] have became a hot button issue over the past few years when many states, Arizona being the first, passed laws giving their state and local officials more power to crack down on illegal immigration. In January, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked [JURIST report] the US Supreme Court to overturn a recent decision striking down provisions of Alabama's controversial immigration law [HB 56, PDF]. In December Thrash lifted a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] blocking part of a Georgia immigration law that allows law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status when questioning suspects in criminal investigations. Thrash's order was in line with an August ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which upheld [JURIST report] that provision of the law, but it remains to be seen how police will enforce the provision.

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