Court to rule later on Georgia and Alabama anti-illegal immigration cases

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, who heard arguments on the Alabama and Georgia immigration law today, said it would not issue an opinion until the Supreme Court makes its final decision on a similar Arizona law. The panel pressed lawyers on both sides about the polarizing laws, which have divided the nation.

The Supreme Court will not argue the Arizona law until April 25, so there will be no decision by the appeals court before that date.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer, Cecillia Wang, argued against the Alabama law and pushed against multiple provisions in HB56, four of which are already in effect.

“The Alabama system would expel people the state deems to be in the state illegally,” Wong says. “It makes life virtually impossible for them.”

The four provisions which are already in effect in the state give police officers the authority to check a person’s immigration status during a traffic stop; allow a person to be detained and arrested if driving without a license; render contracts of any kind with undocumented immigrants null and void; and makes it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to do business with the state for basic things such as getting a driver’s license.

A section of the law that requires schools to check students’ immigration status was temporarily blocked in October.

Lawyers defending the Alabama and Georgia law, focused on the idea of “dual enforcement,” much like laws that allow both state and federal prosecutors to charge suspects with drug crimes.

“It’s axiomatic that both the state and the federal government can both prosecute the same crime,” Georgia State attorney Devon Orland argued, adding that the law’s intent is not to “persecute people.”

The president of the nonpartisan Hispanic National Bar Association, Benny Agosto, says the law hurts all Latinos, which is something Wang argued as well. “We’re strongly against these kinds of laws,” he says. “We believe they’re unconstitutional and affect everyday life for Latinos, whether documented or not.”

Alabama Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, who co-sponsored the bill, said the goal was to attack every aspect of an undocumented immigrant’s life and get them to “self deport.”

The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA), which was one of the organizations who filed the lawsuit, says it has already seen instances of people suffering from the law, even though it is not fully implemented.

This was corroborated by the Southern Poverty Law Center which released a study entitled, “Alabama’s Shame: HB 56 and the War on Immigrants,” which included real life examples of families suffering because of the law, including U.S. citizens.

Agosto elaborated on the main argument concerning the constitutionality of the laws.

“It affects the rights of those that are here treated without due process and citizens as well,” he says.

“You argue for everyone, not just for one person.”

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