Several civil rights groups filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to halt Georgia’s stringent new immigration law that would allow law enforcement to check the legal status of criminal suspects and force many businesses to do the same with potential employees.
The groups claim that Georgia’s House Bill 87 is preempted by federal law and are asking a federal judge to deem the law unconstitutional and block state authorities from enforcing it.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and several other groups and individuals filed the lawsuit in Atlanta’s federal district court.
The law allows authorities to check the immigration status of criminal suspects who do not produce a valid ID and to detain and turn over to federal authorities those who are found to be in the country illegally.
Among other things, the law outlaws the transporting or harboring of illegal immigrants while knowingly committing another crime.Most provisions in the law are scheduled to take effect July 1.
Among the blocked provisions is the requirement that law enforcement check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and whom they suspect to be in the country illegally. The ruling was upheld in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in April.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has said she plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Supporters of the Georgia law also argue that the Supreme Court indicated that state efforts to rein in illegal immigration are constitutional when it recently upheld an Arizona law that allows the state to revoke business licenses of employers who hire illegal immigrants.
That decision does not change precedent of immigration being exclusively under federal oversight, which the Georgia law violates, said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center.
Last month, a federal judge halted a Utah law similar to the Georgia measure, citing its similarities to the Arizona law that is being disputed in federal court.
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