ATLANTA - The Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) said Tuesday that Monday's federal appeals court ruling on Georgia's immigration law is a "big win for our communities." But both sides are claiming some victory following the divided ruling.
The 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled law enforcement in Georgia may verify the immigration status of criminal suspects who fail to produce proper identification. (See separate story.)
"The ruling against HB87 is a big win for our communities now, and opens the door for future litigation to stop the 'show me your papers' racial profiling provisions in the law," GALEO Executive Director Jerry Gonzalez said Tuesday.
"We will not tolerate racial profiling in our state and will work with civil rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice closely to monitor police activity all across the state with the help of community members. In fact, community members who suspect racial profiling practices by law enforcement agencies can call our toll free hotline, 1-888-54GALEO, to leave a message for follow up. All calls will be confidential..."
Gonzalez added, "To be clear, HB87 and the ruling authorizes, but does NOT require, law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status. We do hope law enforcement officials will exercise discretion to uphold public safety for all and not work against their best intentions to promote healthy community policing. Only through community trust throughout a jurisdiction will public safety be enhanced."
GALEO is also calling on the Obama Administration for an "immediate suspension" of all 287(g) agreements in Georgia (one of them being with the Hall County Sheriff's Office) and the suspension of Secure Communities because of the recent ruling and "because of the documented racial profiling that has become apparent with these programs." Gonzalez said "With this ruling, a continuation of these federal programs will only encourage discriminatory racial profiling across the state. We urge the Obama Administration to end these federal programs in Georgia."
American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Omar Jadwat said he was disappointed the court didn't keep the injunction for the verification section but was pleased with the court's decision to keep one part of the injunction.
"I think it's a strong sign that all the state harboring laws will go down," Jadwat said.
He also said the organization will continue to challenge so-called "show-me-your-papers" provisions of the state immigration laws.
"The court today rejected many parts of Alabama and Georgia's anti-immigrant laws, including attempts to criminalize everyday interactions with undocumented immigrants and Alabama's callous attempt to deprive some children of their constitutional right to education," he said in a statement. "The court explicitly left the door open to further challenges against the `show me your papers' provision, which we will continue to fight."
Meanwhile, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said he was generally pleased with the ruling but disagreed with the court on the section still being blocked.
"After over a year of litigation, only one of the 23 sections of (House Bill) 87 has been invalidated. We are currently reviewing the 11th Circuit's ruling to determine whether further appeal would be appropriate at this stage of the case," Olens said.
A spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal also focused on the immediate result. "We knew Georgia was on solid footing" after the Arizona ruling, Brian Robinson said.
State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, sponsored the immigration bill. "Just as we were pleased when the US Supreme Court upheld one of the center pieces of the Arizona law ... we are pleased that the 11th Circuit has upheld a similar provision in our Georgia law," Ramsey said.
Georgia is one of several states that have enacted anti-illegal immigration laws in recent years.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)