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Monday, June 27, 2011

Federal judge blocks part of Georgia's immigration law

A federal judge has temporarily blocked parts of Georgia's controversial immigration law, most of which was set to take effect on Friday, until a hearing can resolve legal challenges. The Associated Press' Kate Brumback reports:

Judge Thomas Thrash on Monday blocked parts of the law that penalize people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants. He also blocked provisions that authorize officers to verify the immigration status of someone who can't provide proper identification.

Thrash also dismissed parts of the lawsuit at the state's request.

The judge has not set a date for a hearing to determine the merits of the lawsuit.

UPDATE, 3:06 p.m.: Here's a 79-page PDF of the judge's order.

UPDATE, 3:25 p.m.: "This is a very important decision," says Azadeh Shahshahani, national security/immigrants' rights project director with the ACLU of Georgia, one of the plaintiffs. "We very much celebrate the fact that Georgians do not have to deal with the implications of this unconstitutional and racial-profiling law."

UPDATE, 3:40 p.m.: One Thrash quote that might receive some attention:

The widespread belief that the federal government is doing nothing about illegal immigration is the belief in a myth. Although the Defendants characterize federal enforcement as “passive,” that assertion has no basis in fact.

On an average day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrest approximately 816 aliens for administrative immigration violations and remove approximately 912 aliens, including 456 criminal aliens, from the United States. [...] In 2010, immigration offenses were prosecuted in federal court more than any other offense. Of the 83,946 cases prosecuted under the federal sentencing guidelines, 28,504, or 34% involved immigration offenses. In 2010, of 81,304 criminal cases prosecuted in federal court, 38,619 (47.5%) were non-United States citizens.

It is true that there are thousands of illegal immigrants in Georgia that are here because of the insatiable demand in decades gone by for cheap labor in agriculture and certain industries such as construction and poultry processing. The federal government gives priority to prosecuting and removing illegal immigrants that are committing crimes in this country and to those who have previously been deported for serious criminal offenses such as drug trafficking and crimes of violence. To the extent that federal officers and prosecutors have priorities that differ from those of local prosecutors, those priorities are part of the flexibility that “is a critical component of the statutory and regulatory framework” under which the federal government pursues the difficult (and often competing) objectives, of “protecting national security, protecting public safety, and securing the border.”

UPDATE, 5:07 p.m.: Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, says in a statement:

“Gov. Deal is disappointed that the court enjoined two sections of Georgia’s immigration law... Curiously, the court writes ‘all illegal aliens will leave Georgia’ if the law is enforced, as if it is appalled at the thought of people attaining visas before coming to our nation. The federal court’s ruling, however, will crystallize for Georgians and other Americans our underlying problem: Beyond refusing to help with our state’s illegal immigration problem, the federal government is determined to be an obstacle. The state of Georgia narrowly tailored its immigration law to conform with existing federal law and court rulings. Georgians can rest assured that this battle doesn’t end here; we will appeal this decision.”

Robinson added that the judge upheld 21 of the law's 23 sections — a point Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens also pointed out in his statement:

“My office is reviewing today’s opinion from Judge Thrash. I appreciate the speed with which Judge Thrash ruled, given the complexity of the issues. I am pleased with the dismissal of the 4th Amendment, 14th Amendment, “Right to Travel,” and Georgia Constitutional claims by the Plaintiffs — even after this ruling, 21 of the 23 sections of HB 87 will go into effect as planned. My office plans to appeal the Court’s finding that Sections 7 and 8 of the law are preempted.”

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