ACLU to File Suit Against Georgia's Immigration Law

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and other rights groups are preparing to file a lawsuit challenging Georgia's immigration law, which seeks to go after undocumented immigrants.

The state chapter of the ACLU said in a statement Wednesday that the groups plan to hold a news conference Thursday to discuss the suit. Georgia's law, one of the toughest on immigration at the state-level in the nation, is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

Last week, the ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of a new law in Indiana that targets undocumented immigrants.

The law enforcement provisions in Georgia's law are similar to a Utah law on immigration enacted this year and echo some parts of a law enacted last year in Arizona. All or parts of those laws have been blocked by federal judges.

The Georgia law authorizes law enforcement to check immigration status of a suspect who cannot provide an accepted form of identification. Other provisions include more stringent requirements for employers to verify the eligibility of prospective hires to work in the United States, and penalties for people who harbor or transport undocumented immigrants.

Shortly after the law passed, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the measure had been drafted with care not to repeat some aspects of the Arizona law that had been left vulnerable to court challenges. Deal nonetheless conceded that he expected lawsuits.

“We think it’s not nearly as contentious in many of the areas that [Arizona's] statute had been challenged on," Deal was quoted as saying in published reports. "But I certainly understand that is probably going to be put to a court test.”

The groups say it "establishes a `show-me-your-papers' police state, encourages racial profiling, endangers public safety and betrays American values."

In a statement that appeared in published reports after the Georgia law passed, ACLU officials said: “This law threatens the safety and security of all Georgians by diverting already limited resources away from law enforcement’s primary responsibility to provide protection and promote public safety in the community."

“This ill-conceived law sends a clear message to communities that the authorities are not to be trusted," the statement said, "making them less likely to come forward as survivors of or witnesses to crime.”

The Pew Hispanic Center says Georgia has an estimated 425,000 undocumented immigrants, one of the highest such populations in the country.

The state's undocumented immigrants and their supporters held several demonstrations against the law when it was being debated in the legislature. They said they had come to the United States to work and did not want to be treated like criminals.

But those who want stricter immigration enforcement said Georgia, like Arizona and Utah, was taking immigration into its own hands because the federal government has failed to control it.

This story contains material from The Associated Press.

Follow Elizabeth Llorente on Twitter: @LlorenteLatino

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