[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) [official websites] and a coalition of other civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Thursday challenging a Georgia immigration law [HB 87 text] similar to Arizona law already being challenged in federal court. The groups filed the lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia [official website] to block the law they characterized as a “show-me-your-papers” scheme since it will force citizens to prove their identity using specific documents. Omar Jadwat, staff attorney for the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the Georgia law is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing law enforcement to detain individuals without necessary papers, and it violates the Supremacy Clause because only the federal government can make such immigration regulations. The plaintiffs include Paul Edwards who, as part of a local Christian faith group, transports undocumented individuals to places of worship and places for medical services. They argue that under HB 87, Edwards would be subject to criminal liability for transporting, assisting, or harboring undocumented individuals. Linton Joaquin, general counsel for NILC, pointed out that under HB 87, law enforcement would not accept the drivers licenses of states that do not have immigration restrictions such as Washington and New Mexico. He suggested that drivers with one of these licenses could be detained for failure to prove citizenship. He said the law “creates a police state repugnant to our fundamental values.” Karen Tumlin, managing attorney with NILC, said the law:
gives Georgians a reason to fear that they may be stripped of their constitutional rights simply because of the way they look or sound. Laws that promote this kind of bare-bones discrimination are out of step with history and cannot be allowed to stand. We are confident that the Court will agree that unconstitutional attempts to drive a wedge between Georgian communities should not be allowed.
The groups filing the lawsuit called on the federal government and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to be consistent by taking a stand against this immigration law as it has done with the Arizona law. The groups are hopeful to win a preliminary injunction to stop the law from ever taking effect, which it is set to do on July 1.
Last month, the Georgia bill was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal [official website]. HB 87 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. Also last month, the ACLU filed two similar lawsuits to block immigration laws in both Indiana and Utah [JURIST reports]. A decision by US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] last month on preemption of an state immigration laws may have an impact on such lawsuits. The court held in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a controversial Arizona employment law [materials] that imposes penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants is not preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) [text].