Protesters gather outside the Georgia governor’s office in May when HB 87 was passed.
- The state law is part of the broader nationwide immigration debate
- Georgia officials say they will appeal the verdict
- The judge says law enforcement agencies cannot enforce two sections of the law
- Most of the provisions of the law can continue
Atlanta (CNN) – A federal judge on Monday issued an injunction blocking key provisions of a new law in Georgia aimed at combating illegal immigration while allowing other parts of the law to move forward.
Most of the law, known as HB 87, was due to go into effect on Friday.
US District Judge Thomas Thrash Jr.’s verdict blocks the enforcement of two of the most controversial sections of the law.
“State and local law enforcement officers and officials have no authority to arrest, arrest, or prosecute anyone under Sections 7 and 8 of HB 87 while this injunction remains in effect,” said Thrash.
These sections would allow police to inquire about immigration status when interviewing suspects in certain criminal investigations. They would also punish those who knowingly transport or host illegal immigrants while committing a crime. Something like speeding or driving without proper equipment could be a criminal offense.
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“The apparent legislative intent is to create a climate of hostility, fear, suspicion and insecurity that all illegal aliens will leave Georgia,” wrote Thrash.
In his 45-page judgment, the judge cited an earlier court ruling that injunctions are in the public interest “when civil rights are at stake”. He also wrote that state officials attempted to violate federal enforcement powers of the immigration service.
“I am very happy, as are anyone who believes the Constitution is important,” said Charles Kuck, an Atlanta attorney whose law firm represented some of the plaintiffs.
He said the suspended provisions were poorly worded and it was unclear how they would have been enforced if pushed forward.
Though the verdict was hailed as a victory by plaintiffs, Thrash also made a number of arguments at the request of the state, a point emphasized by Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens shortly after the ruling.
“I appreciate the speed with which Judge Thrash ruled, given the complexity of the matter. I am pleased with Plaintiffs’ rejection of the 4th Amendment, 14th Amendment, ‘Travel Rights’ and Georgia constitutional claims – even thereafter. “21 of the 23 sections of HB 87 will go into effect as planned,” Olens wrote in a statement.
Part of the law, which is still in effect, is a provision that workers convicted of using forged ID cards to seek work could face 15 years in prison and fined $ 250,000. The law also requires people applying for public services to provide certain types of identification.
Olens said his office would appeal the judge’s ruling on sections 7 and 8.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s office, which supports the law, also lobbied the judge’s verdict.
“In addition to refusing to help with the problem of illegal immigration in our state, the federal government is determined to be an obstacle. The state of Georgia has been closely aligning its immigration law with existing federal laws and court rulings,” said Brian Robinson, deputy governor’s chief executive officer of the staff for communication. “The Georgians can be sure that this fight doesn’t end here.”
The Georgia lawsuit is the latest battle in a nationwide skirmish between state and federal officials over who controls immigration enforcement.
Arizona’s controversial law to combat illegal immigration catapulted the issue to the national stage last year, prompting the US Department of Justice to find the law unconstitutional.
In April, a three-judge panel from the US 9th Court of Appeals sided with the Department of Justice against Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who signed Arizona law last year. Brewer announced last month that the state would appeal directly to the US Supreme Court.
CNN’s Gustavo Valdes and Dana Ford contributed to this report.