When Gov. Deal signed Georgia’ Immigration Law, I believed that most, if not all, would be deemed constitutional. While the United States Supreme Court has struck down some insignificant sections, the most important measures have passed constitutional muster.
In June, the Supreme Court upheld a measure in Arizona that requires police to determine the immigration status of suspects when practical and when they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally.
Two weeks ago, the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that Georgia could soon start enforcing a key part of its sweeping immigration law, empowering state and local police to investigate the immigration status of suspects and take illegal immigrants to jail. This provision of the law closely tracks the language of the Arizona law.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court did say that it recognizes arguments from critics that this statute “invites a host of other problems, namely racial profiling,” and that such racial profiling could spur lawsuits. I expect many of these lawsuits in the future.
The court also held that another part of Georgia’s law should remain on hold. That provision would punish people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing other crimes.
The court said the Georgia law that would punish people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants is addressed adequately by federal law, which already prohibits such activities.
The 11th Circuit said “When state laws intrude into areas of overwhelming federal interest and erode the discretion implicit in the sovereignty of the country, we must recognize the supremacy of federal law.” This statement concerns me and many others. The rapid growth of federal law and intrusion into the rights of the states to make law is becoming a growing problem.
However, the Governor’s office seems to be pleased with the ruling even though the harboring provision has been put on hold. “This ruling upholds the most important enforcement elements of our state’s immigration law,” said Brian Robinson, the governor’s spokesman. Governor Deal will like consult Attorney General Olens on strategic issues as this litigation continues.
Law enforcement agencies have been anticipating a ruling similar to this. This presents a difficult, but not impossible, challenge to our officers patrolling our state. Training, intelligence, and use of careful judgment will be key in investigating people where there is a reasonable suspicion that he or she is in this country illegally.
Whether you agree with Georgia’s Immigration Law or not, the reality is that most Americans are concerned about people illegally entering this country with impunity. There are many reasons why people want to come to the best country on the face of this Earth. But, there are legal ways to do this. They may be time consuming, but legal immigration is the only acceptable way to enter and stay in our country.
Those who argue that illegal immigration is okay and breaking the law is no big deal completely undermine the notion that our country was built on a nation of laws, not men. Excusing and even promoting illegal activities is an embarrassment to our nation.