State News

September 13, 2012

State wants full court hearing on immigration law

ATLANTA — The state of Georgia has asked a full federal appeals court to reconsider a decision on the state’s tough law targeting illegal immigration.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month left in place a lower court injunction that blocks part of Georgia’s law making it illegal for someone to knowingly harbor or transport an illegal immigrant during the commission of a crime. The panel also ruled last month that a part of the law that authorizes law enforcement to verify the immigration status of criminal suspects who fail to produce proper identification should be allowed to go into effect.

The state on Monday filed a petition asking for a full court hearing. The state wrote in its court filing that the panel’s decision goes against certain 11th Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including a decision in June on a challenge to a similar law in Arizona. The 11th Circuit can accept or decline the request.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Omar Jadwat, who argued the case before the 11th Circuit panel, said the state’s request is “a pointless attempt to postpone the harboring provision’s inevitable demise.”

“This mean-spirited law has failed the constitutional test at every stage of this litigation, and it is going to keep failing no matter how long the State drags out the fight,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said the state would have no comment beyond the petition for rehearing.

The state argued in its filing that the panel’s finding that federal law preempts the state law’s harboring and transporting provision “threatens to undermine the cooperative federalism found throughout state and federal criminal law.”

The panel also held that the plaintiffs’ private right of action to challenge the law stemmed from the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution “without performing any of the analysis required by precedents of this Court and the Supreme Court,” the state argued.

Georgia is one of several states that last year followed Arizona’s lead in enacting strict anti-illegal immigration laws. Proponents have argued they are necessary in part because of alleged federal inaction. Opponents have argued that many of the laws are punitive to immigrants and that immigration policy must be steered by the federal government.

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