ACLU Of Georgia Urges Lawmakers To Reject Arizona-Style Racial Profiling Bills

March 1, 2011

State Lawmakers Should Be Wary of Subjecting Georgia Taxpayers to Exorbitant Litigation Costs Defending the Unconstitutional Legislation, Says ACLU

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Atlanta – The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia today called on state lawmakers to reject bills similar to Arizona’s notorious racial profiling law and vowed to challenge in court any such legislation if it were to go into effect. The ACLU made the call after Georgia lawmakers including State Representative Matt Ramsey and State Senator Jack Murphy proposed Arizona-style legislation, House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40.

“The proposed bills are unconstitutional and violate core American values,” said Debbie Seagraves, ACLU of Georgia Executive Director. “The ACLU of Georgia will challenge such racial profiling legislation if passed in Georgia,” said Seagraves.

The bills order law enforcement officers throughout Georgia to use racial profiling as a tool. Despite language that superficially purports to prohibit enforcement based on race and national origin, in reality, those are the only factors the police can rely on in order to suspect undocumented status.

“The legislation will likely suffer the same fate as key provisions of Arizona’s notorious SB 1070, which were blocked by a federal court,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director. “Laws that promise to turn the state into “show me your papers” territory would not withstand legal challenge,” said Shahshahani.

State Representative Matt Ramsey’s proposed HB 87 would require state and local law enforcement officials to investigate the immigration status of all individuals they “reasonably suspect” to be undocumented whom they come into contact with in the course of an offense, including traffic offenses. It would also require private employers to use the flawed E-Verify database and establishes civil sanctions in case of non-compliance. The bill creates criminal penalties for any individual that encourages an undocumented person to come to Georgia or transports or harbors them once they arrive. In addition, it would allow any “legal resident” to bring a lawsuit against any Georgia official or agency whom they believe not to be enforcing provisions of the bill.

SB 40, sponsored by State Senator Jack Murphy, mirrors several provisions of HB 87, such as requiring local law enforcement to investigate individuals’ immigration status where there is “reasonable cause” to believe that they may be undocumented, and penalizing certain employers that do not use E-Verify. SB 40 also orders fines and jail time for certain non-citizens that do not carry and produce a “certificate of registration.”

Both bills authorize state and local law enforcement to detain individuals for an unspecified period of time to determine their status and gives police to power to make warrantless arrests.

HB 87 and SB 40 significantly resemble Arizona’s SB 1070, most importantly in key provisions that were blocked by an Arizona judge the day before the bill was to go into effect last July. Arizona’s racial profiling law has faced legal opposition from the Department of Justice as well as civil liberties and immigrants’ rights groups. Defending the unconstitutional law has already cost Arizona taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation fees.
 

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