A lawsuit has been filed in hopes of nullifying the recent sweeping immigration reform law passed by the Georgia General Assembly and signed last month by Gov. Nathan Deal.
The suit was filed in federal court on behalf of a handful of civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, the Service Employees International Union and others.
Much of the suit challenges the new ability police officers will have to check the immigration status of any person even being questioned for a minor crime or a traffic violation. This provision goes into affect July 1; until then Georgia has only authorized such checks for persons booked into prisons on felony charges.
The new law allows those being investigated for misdemeanors or traffic violations to have their immigration status checked by any Georgia law enforcement officer.
State Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City, who authored much of the legislation and sponsored it, has noted previously that the federal immigration authorities have only elected to deport illegal U.S. residents from Georgia who are accused of serious crimes, not those who are accused of misdemeanors or traffic violations.
Ramsey argued Tuesday that the bill was drafted to remain within the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit claims the law is unconstitutional, asserting that the enhanced law enforcement capability to check a person’s immigration status “will subject Georgians … to unlawful interrogations, searches, seizures, and arrests and will result in widespread racial profiling.”
Another part of the new immigration legislation is a requirement for all but the smallest businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to insure that all new hires are in fact legal residents of the United States. Ramsey noted that a similar measure in Arizona was upheld last week by the U.S. Supreme Court, so he feels comfortable that Georgia’s requirement will survive the legal challenge.
The lawsuit also assails language in Ramsey’s bill that will deny public benefits such as food stamps and public housing assistance to persons who are not legal U.S. residents.
According to the suit, that will cause “countless Georgians — including U.S. citizens and non-citizens with federal permission to remain in the United States — to be erroneously deprived of the public benefits that they need and are lawfully entitled to receive. These deprivations will force individuals and families, including those with young children, to be without food and shelter, simply due to an ability to produce a qualifying identity document.”
Ramsey said state leaders are confident the bill will be upheld in federal court as it is defended by the office of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.
“We think all the provisions in the bill are going to be vindicated,” Ramsey said.