Reducing Harm from Georgia’s Anti-Immigrant HB 87

July 19, 2013

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center, 213- 400-7822, [email protected]
Isabel Alegria, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, 415-343-0785 or 646-438-4146,[email protected]
Apreill Hartsfield, Southern Poverty Law Center, 334-782-6624, [email protected]

Coalition Pursues Open Records Requests with Law Enforcement Agencies in 28 Georgia Jurisdictions

Next Steps to Reduce Harm from What Remains of State’s Anti-Immigrant HB 87

ATLANTA — Following the federal district court’s order today in Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, et al. v. Deal, et al., a coalition of civil rights groups announced the next steps in its effort to dismantle the state’s anti-immigrant law, HB 87. Significant parts of the law have been blocked by the courts, but one provision remains that allows police officers to ask the federal government to verify the immigration status of individuals who are lawfully detained on state-law grounds. It does not allow for stops, arrests, or even extending detention for immigration verification. Today’s order holds that challenges to that provision’s implementation must be brought in other suits, rather than through the original case that the coalition filed before HB 87’s effective date in 2011.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that if a law like this results in police detaining people to investigate their immigration status,” said Linton Joaquin of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), “it would raise serious constitutional problems. We will continue to monitor to ensure that police implement this law in a constitutional manner.”

“This particular lawsuit has been dismissed, but our commitment to justice in Georgia is as strong as ever,” said Omar Jadwat, supervising attorney, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “In this case, we permanently struck down HB 87’s central provision that would have made it a crime just to give an immigrant friend a ride to church or to work, and we put narrow limits on the remaining verification provision. Now we’re going to make sure what’s left of this mean-spirited law does not harm the people of Georgia,” Jadwat said. “By filing 28 open records requests in jurisdictions throughout the state, we mean to send a message to law enforcement agencies that we will closely monitor their implementation of the remains of HB 87, and we stand ready to bring additional targeted lawsuits as necessary. Racial profiling and discrimination based on a person’s looks or the language that they speak will not go unnoticed or unopposed in Georgia,” Jadwat said.

Georgia’s anti-immigrant law, HB 87, was inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070. In June 2011, a federal judge blocked much of the law; however, last March a federal appeals court let the immigration status–verification provision go into effect, while making clear that strict limits applied to its implementation.

“Today’s decision ends a chapter in the fight against Georgia’s anti-immigrant laws,” said Naomi Tsu, senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Through this case, the brave community members who challenged HB 87 succeeded in ensuring that Georgians will not be criminalized for neighborly acts of kindness. Going forward, we will be watching law enforcement and will take action if we see immigration enforcement that violates civil rights.”

The records requests announced today target municipal and county law enforcement agencies in areas around Atlanta and Macon as well as Savannah, along Georgia’s eastern coast.

“There have been indications of rampant racial profiling in metro-Atlanta counties which participate in federal enforcement programs in particular as we documented in our reports onCobb and Gwinnett,” said Azadeh Shahshahani of the ACLU of Georgia. “We were concerned that the implementation of HB 87 would turn the entire state into racial profiling territory, which is what prompted us to file the public records requests.”

The civil rights coalition that filed the original lawsuit includes NILC, the ACLU, the ACLU of Georgia, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus, Federal & Hassan, LLP, Kuck Immigration Partners, LLC, and G. Brian Spears.

For more information about Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, et al. v. Deal, et al.

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