After hearing arguments last week from a coalition of immigration attorneys and civil-rights organizations seeking to block implementation of Georgia’s new immigration law (HB 87), which went into effect July 1, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash issued his ruling Monday afternoon.
The attorneys asked the federal court judge appointed by former President Bill Clinton to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the law until a pending lawsuit challenging it as unconstitutional is resolved.
While leaving most of the law intact in his ruling this week, Thrash did issue a preliminary injunction that blocks two of the provisions of the law from taking effect until the pending lawsuit is completed.
One of the provisions would penalize people who, while committing another offense, knowingly transport or harbor undocumented immigrants. The other provision would authorize police to verify the immigration status of someone who they believe has committed a crime and cannot provide identification.
In issuing his decision, Thrash ruled that the state was trying to enforce aspects of immigration law that are the responsibility of the federal government.
Similar laws dealing with immigration in other states have gotten favorable results in the court systems. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Arizona statue mirroring a substantial portion of Georgia’s HB 87 while the court ruled last week that states can require businesses to use systems such as E-verify to confirm the residency requirements of their employees.
Some have expressed a concern about boycotts and protests regarding the new law. The Mexican government, which has filed a brief as part of the lawsuit against the new law, already has moved its bi-national health week event from Atlanta to San Antonio.
The agricultural community is estimating millions of dollars in losses to various crops. In response to this shortage, Gov. Nathan Deal has suggested using unemployed prison inmates on probation as a way to solve the problem.
So with the lawsuits, rallies, boycotts and worker shortages all stemming from the passage of HB 87, is it still a good idea?
Lawsuits are expected in almost any contentious situation such as this, as are rallies and boycotts.
While the worker shortage in the agricultural community is not a totally unexpected result of the new law, one has to wonder how a state with an unemployment rate currently at 9.8 percent possibly could experience worker shortages.
The underlying problem is not HB 87 or the state of Georgia’s action, but the federal government’s inaction in addressing the problem. While it is painful and hopefully temporary, it is absolutely necessary.
I believe in our state and I believe in our workforce. These temporary problems will work themselves out.
In the meantime, let’s hope that the judges hearing the lawsuit don’t try to legislate from the bench and instead agree with the intentions of Georgia’s citizen legislature.