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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Georgia Immigration Law Curbed by Federal Judge

ATLANTA (CN) - A federal judge struck down a key section of Georgia's immigration law that criminalized the harbor and transportation of undocumented immigrants.

Georgia adopted its Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act, also known as House Bill 87, in 2011. Among other things, the law authorized the police to check the immigration status of criminal suspects and take them to jail if the suspects could not prove they were in the United States legally. Section 7 of the law criminalized transporting and harboring illegal immigrants while committing another crime and encouraging them to enter Georgia. First-time offenders of the transportation and concealment provision would have faced jail time and up to $1,000 in fines.

A coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups led by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights challenged H.B. 87 before it took effect, arguing that it violated constitutional rights, invited racial profiling, and interfered with the Immigration and Nationality Act.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash quickly blocked the status-verification section as well as Section 7, but left the rest of the law intact pending the outcome of the constitutional challenge to the law.

The 11th Circuit partially lifted the injunction in August 2012, allowing Georgia police officers to demand documents demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops and arrests.

The appellate court agreed, however, that federal law pre-empted Section 7. It found that the Immigration and Nationality Act, which penalizes the transportation, concealment, and inducement of unlawfully present aliens, limits the role of the states to arrest for violations of federal law. Extending immigration-related law enforcement authority to the states threatens the uniform application of the federal law and dilutes federal power, according to the ruling.

In light of that decision, Thrash permanently enjoined the state on Wednesday from enforcing Section 7.

The order instructs the state to inform law-enforcement agencies about the permanent injunction.

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