Atlanta – The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations filed suit here Thursday against Georgia's state law HB 87, a modified version of the controversial Arizona measure targeting undocumented immigrants.
Signed last month by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, HB 87 is due to take effect July 1.
"Georgia's law is fundamentally un-American: We are not a 'show me your papers' country, nor one that believes in making certain people 'untouchables' that others should be afraid to assist, house or transport," Omar Jadwat, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, told reporters.
Joining the ACLU as plaintiffs are the Service Employees International Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, the National Immigration Law Center and a group of prominent attorneys led by former DeKalb County Superior Court Judge R. Keegan Federal Jr.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, says HB 87 is unconstitutional because it interferes with the federal government's authority over immigration matters and that the provision of the law permitting police to question some suspects about their immigration status will encourage racial profiling.
HB 87 "gives Georgians a reason to fear that they may be stripped of their constitutional rights simply because of the way they look or sound," National Immigration Law Center attorney Karen Tumlin said.
Mary Bauer, representing the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the Georgia law "undermines our core American values of fairness and equality" and perpetuates "hate rhetoric" against immigrants.
The lawsuit also focuses on a clause of HB 87 that mandates criminal penalties for people who knowingly transport or harbor undocumented immigrants or encourage them to come to Georgia.
"This extreme law criminalizes everyday folks who have daily interactions with undocumented individuals in their community, making people of faith and others vulnerable to arrest and detention while conducting acts of charity and kindness," Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said.
One of the plaintiffs to the lawsuit is Paul J. Edwards, a member of a local religious group who transports people - some of them undocumented migrants - to health facilities and places of worship.
Georgia, following Utah and Indiana, is the third state to adopt a law inspired by Arizona's SB 1070, which remains largely inoperative pending a final ruling in the federal courts.
"The courts have blocked Arizona's and Utah's laws from going into effect. Georgia should be prepared for the same outcome," the ACLU's Jadwat said Thursday.