State and local police could soon start enforcing one of the most controversial parts of Georgia’s illegal immigration law now that a federal appeals court in Atlanta has issued a ruling in a related legal case.
At issue is a provision — nicknamed the “show-me-your-papers” law — that would give police the option to investigate the immigration status of suspects they believe have committed state or federal crimes and who cannot provide identification or other information that could help police identify them. It also would empower police to detain people determined to be in the country illegally and take them to jail.
Court officials could not be reached for comment Monday evening, so it is unclear when police could be given the green light to start enforcing the law. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta sustained the statute amid a legal battle in August. But it has been tied up in a legal case the appeals court decided this week.
In this week’s ruling, the court rejected Georgia’s request to reconsider its decision against another part of the law. That other provision would punish people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing other crimes.
In August, the court ruled the measure is pre-empted by federal law, which already prohibits such activities. In a petition for a rehearing Georgia filed the following month, state officials said the court’s ruling “threatens to undermine the cooperative federalism found throughout state and federal criminal law, as well as thousands of criminal convictions for violations of state laws that mirror federal laws.”
A spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, who signed Georgia’s illegal immigration legislation into law last year, said the governor’s office had no comment on this week’s court ruling.
Linton Joaquin, general counsel for the National Immigration Law Center, said he was glad to see the court’s ruling Monday against the provision targeting people who harbor or transport illegal immigrants. At the same time, he said his organization and other civil and immigrant rights groups who sued to block the show-me-your-papers law will be watching closely how it is enforced. They have argued it is pre-empted by federal law and could lead to racial profiling.
“It is a concern,” he said. “We will be looking to see how it gets implemented.”
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