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, set to go into effect Friday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash issued his ruling Monday afternoon.
The attorneys were asking the federal court judge appointed by former President Bill Clinton to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the law until a pending lawsuit challenging the bill 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 provisions of the law from taking effect Friday until the pending lawsuit is completed.
The first provision blocked would penalize people who, while committing another offense, knowingly transport or harbor undocumented immigrants. The other would authorize police to verify the immigration status of someone they believe has committed a crime and cannot provide identification.
In his decision, Thrasher ruled 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, who has filed a brief as part of the lawsuit against the new law, has already moved its bi-national health week event from Atlanta to San Antonio.
This week a rally is planned at the state capitol for high school-age illegal immigrants to bring attention to how hundreds of thousands of young people were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.
And although the law hasn’t taken effect yet, some industries in Georgia are claiming to have already felt the impact of the law and are experiencing a shortage of workers.
The agricultural community is estimating millions of dollars in losses to various crops, such as blueberries, cucumbers and watermelons, due to the shortage of workers.
In response to this shortage, Gov. Nathan Deal has suggested using unemployed prison inmates on probation as a way to solve the problem. With obtaining a job, a condition of probation and nearly one-fourth of the 100,000 probationers’ statewide unemployed, the Corrections Commission is assisting in connecting probationers with employers. Thus far, the proposal has had mixed results.
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, which has exceeded the national average for 46 consecutive months, could possibly be experiencing worker shortages.
The underlying problem is not HB 87 or Georgia’s action. Instead, it’s the federal government’s inaction in addressing the problem. The longer a problem such as this continues the more difficult it becomes to correct – what we are experiencing now is a result of years of neglect. While it is painful and hopefully temporary, it is absolutely necessary.
When we hear of the millions of dollars being lost in crops not being harvested, we must keep in mind the billions of dollars in savings to our state of not having to provide health care and educational opportunities to undocumented workers who are not paying taxes.
I believe in our state and I believe in our workforce. These temporary problems will work themselves out.
In the meantime, let’s hope the judges hearing the lawsuit, unlike Thrash, don’t try to legislate from the bench and instead agrees with the intentions of Georgia’s citizen legislature.
Carter can be reached at his Capitol office at (404) 656-5109.