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Federal judge dismisses Georgia immigration law challenge

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia [official website] on Friday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to scrap a key part of Georgia's sweeping anti-illegal immigration law. The lawsuit challenges a 2011 statute that gives police the option to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. Should it be determined that someone is in the country illegally, police are also empowered to detail them. Judge Thomas Thrash's most recent decision [AJC report] allows the current Georgia immigration law to continue to be enforced.

In March the Georgia General Assembly [official website] amended Senate Bill 160 [text, PDF], implementing stricter security and immigration compliance than the original 2011 version. That month Thrash permanently blocked [JURIST report] a key provision in Georgia's immigration law that criminalized knowingly transporting or harboring an illegal immigrant during the course of any other crime, reasoning that the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit already held that this portion of Georgia's immigration law was preempted by federal law. In addition, Thrash ordered 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. 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.

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