Bloomberg News

Georgia Immigration Law’s Enforcement Delayed by U.S. Judge

June 27, 2011

(Updates with court filing in second paragraph.)

June 27 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. judge delayed enforcement of a Georgia law that requires employers to verify whether a worker is a legal resident and allows police to investigate an immigrant suspect’s legal status.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash in Atlanta said a group of nonprofit organizations, business associations and individuals who sued to block the state statute are likely to prevail on their claim that parts of the measure scheduled to take effect July 1 are unconstitutional because they are preempted by federal law.

“Seventy years ago the United States Supreme Court declared that the federal government had the exclusive right to legislate in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation,” the judge said in today’s ruling. “That remains the law of the land.”

Georgia lawmakers passed the bill that gives state law enforcement broader authority to identify undocumented workers in April, after a similar effort in Arizona was blocked in federal court.

Under the legislation, police are allowed to verify the immigration status of people suspected of certain crimes and arrest those in the country illegally. It also would require businesses with at least 10 employees to use a federal database to check that new hires are authorized to work in the U.S.

Thrash said in his ruling that it was a myth that the federal government did nothing about illegal immigration and that the state government’s characterization of federal enforcement as “passive” had no basis in fact.

Representatives of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, whose office is defending the lawsuit, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

The case is Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights v. Nathan Deal, 11-01804, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

--With assistance from Simone Baribeau in Miami. Editors: Peter Blumberg, Fred Strasser

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta at lviele@bloomberg.net. Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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