Amicus Brief filed in lawsuit challenging Georgia’s “show me your papers” law

The lawsuit challenges HB 87, Georgia’s version of Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation 

ATLANTA, GEORGIA– Today, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) filed an Amicus brief in support of Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), et al. v. Deal, et al.,  the lawsuit challenging Georgia’s Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 (“HB 87”), which will take effect on July 1, 2011.  SCHR is joined by the following Amicae: National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, National Guestworker Alliance, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Asian American Justice Center, Asian American Institute, ASTSTA Immigration Assistance, Organization of Chinese Americans, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of  Southern California, Arte Sana, Alianza Latina en Contra la Agresion Sexual, Japanese American Citizens League, Alabama Women’s Resource Network and the Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc., who believe that the law goes beyond Georgia’s purview to legislate immigration reform, encourages racial profiling, and will have harmful impacts on public safety and the criminal justice system as a whole.

The Brief highlights the negative effects and unintended consequences that enforcement of HB 87 will create:

Disproportionate Impact on Communities of Color
HB 87 invites discrimination and profiling based on factors, such as race, ethnicity, or English-speaking ability.  The law encourages racial profiling of communities of color because there are no specific guidelines that inform officers when it is appropriate to inquire into an individual’s immigration status.  Local law enforcement officials lack sufficient training to adequately enforce federal immigration laws at the local level.  It demonstrates how HB 87 fundamentally undermines the civil rights of those residing in or traveling through Georgia. 

Concerns about Already Overcrowded Jails
In Georgia, one in thirteen adults is under correctional supervision, the highest in the United States. Georgia’s jails and prisons are already at or over capacity. SCHR has led three class action lawsuits on behalf of people incarcerated in the Fulton County jail due to overcrowding and safety concerns. As of February 2011, the Jail’s total population was 3,002, with 2,382 individuals incarcerated at the Rice Street location and 326 detained in other county jails.  Due to the already overcrowded conditions in the jail, some people are forced to sleep on the floor in certain areas. Overcrowding leads to the inability to properly monitor and maintain a safe environment.  HB 87 will only exacerbate the problems with overcrowding as local jails will be the first stop for those detained and ICE lacks facilities locally to house those who will be held under HB87.

Decreased Reporting of Crimes and Lost Cooperation with Law Enforcement
HB 87 promotes fear and mistrust of law enforcement. Immigrants, non-residents, and people of color will hesitate to contact authorities with information about serious crimes committed against them or crimes they have witnessed, fearing that each encounter with authorities will lead to interrogation about  immigration status and possible detention.

Amicae urge the Court to consider the arguments laid out in the brief, including the impact  HB 87will have on communities living and traveling through Georgia. On Monday, June 20, 2011 at 10 a.m. there will be a hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction and the defendants’ motion to dismiss at the Federal Courthouse in Atlanta; 75 Spring St SW. 

“If allowed to take effect, Georgia’s HB 87 will create a vehicle for Georgia to subvert federal law and create its own brand of immigration law, running afoul of the United States Constitution,” said Southern Center for Human Rights’ attorney Gerald Weber. “The conflict between Georgia law and federal law and policy could not be more clear.”  

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