Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, ignoring months of protest from his state’s business, faith and immigrant communities, signed HB 87, an immigration enforcement bill modeled on Arizona’s SB 1070 that passed the state legislature last month.
Protesters are flooding the capitol today to denounce the law that, like SB 1070, will empower police to question people about their immigration status, and empowers local and state police to arrest undocumented immigrants. HB 87 will also levy a $1,000 fine against people who transport or protect undocumented immigrants, and mandates that businesses with more than ten employees use the problematic and error-ridden federal database E-verify to check workers’ employment eligibility. A person who uses fake ID to get a job could face 15 years in prison and fines up to $250,000 for the first offense of what the state will consider “aggravated identity fraud.”
Opponents say that the new law is an attack on immigrant communities which vilifies the state’s immigrants, regardless of their status.
“We have a right to remain in this state where we have lived, worked, and studied, for some of us, nearly all of our lives,” said Georgina Perez, an undocumented student and a member of the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance. “We will not obey a law that is unjust, that is meant to drive out our families and criminalize our community.”
Georgia is set to become the latest state to adopt SB 1070-inspired legislation after immigrant rights groups successfully defeated similar legislation in Florida last week. State immigration enforcement laws have not stood up so well in court. In the last month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling against Arizona’s SB 1070, denying Gov. Jan Brewer’s appeal to have the injunction lifted. And earlier this week a federal judge granted an injunction of Utah’s harsh immigration enforcement law on the same day that the law went into effect.
Civil and immigrant rights groups have argued that states that attempt to create and enforce their own immigration laws are preempted by the Supremacy clause of the Constitution which says unequivocally that immigration enforcement is strictly a matter for the federal government, and the courts have so far agreed.
Out on the streets though, immigrant rights groups argue that Georgia and other states’ attempts to enforce immigration represent a bald political attack on Latino and immigrant communities.
“This action is not only an insult to the Latino community and other immigrants, but is also an exercise in cheap political pandering that will cost our state dearly,” said Adelina Nicholls, with the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. “This is not the end, only the beginning of a new stage. This law can and must be fought; and it can and will be defeated.”