ATLANTA (CN) - A human rights group and the ACLU sued the federal government for documents about "Georgia's ever-deepening involvement in immigration enforcement."
The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and the ACLU of Georgia sued the Department of Homeland Security, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in a federal FOIA complaint.
After Georgia enacted a repressive state immigration law, there came a surge of reports of racial profiling and improper detention or deportation of Georgia residents, the ACLU says.
"Over the past five years, Georgia law enforcement officials have become involved in immigration enforcement efforts to an unprecedented degree," the complaint states. "In 2012, however, this cooperation took a new form, with the entire state subject to both federal and state laws and policies demanding local participation in immigration enforcement. Despite this extraordinary shift in immigration enforcement in Georgia, there is little public information available to evaluate the civil rights implications of this transformation. The information requested here can meet this fundamental need."
In May 2011, Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 87 into law, allowing local law enforcement to check the immigration status of criminal suspects, among other provisions. The 11th Circuit upheld the "show me your papers" provision on appeal, but cautioned the state that the "unconstitutional application of the statute could be challenged in later litigation."
The groups claim that several Georgia counties and the Georgia Department of Public Safety signed agreements giving local law enforcement the power to perform federal immigration functions.
And they say the state has implemented programs through which jails run immigration checks on any individual booked into jail.
All these measures, the plaintiffs say, have led to frequent reports of racial profiling and police misconduct.
The complaint cites racial profiling at police roadblocks, subjecting Latinos to traffic stops for unknown reasons, and setting up checkpoints in predominantly Latino neighborhoods among the improper practices.
"There have been reports that Georgia police even target crime victims and witnesses for deportation, making immigrants reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement," the complaint states. "In Cobb County, Latinos who have experienced racial profiling fear reporting crimes to the police."
In April this year, the groups asked the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to release records on Georgia's allegedly discriminatory immigration enforcement.
"While anecdotal evidence of such discrimination abounds, the exact nature of the impact of Georgia police involvement in immigration enforcement is unclear," the complaint states. "Thousands of individuals have been deported after an arrest by Georgia state or local police. Yet, no one knows the reason such individuals came into contact with law enforcement in the first place; the grounds for their ultimate arrest; and the countries and cities from which transfers to ICE are being made. It is also unknown whether there has been any communication between state officials and the federal government regarding the widespread reports of discriminatory immigration enforcement in Georgia."
They claim the agencies failed to produce the requested records, and offered no clear explanation.
The plaintiffs want the government to release:
records on people arrested by Georgia law enforcement who were transferred to ICE;
statistics regarding those arrested in Georgia and transferred to federal immigration enforcement;
communications between ICE and Georgia law enforcement on certain immigration-enforcement issues;
and records of immigration detainers on individuals in Georgia state or local custody.
They claim the information is crucial to protect Georgians against discrimination and educate the public.
The plaintiffs are represented by Azadeh Shahshahani with the ACLU.
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