So many people showed up, it took two courtrooms to hold everyone. People in the overflow room listened to live audio of the attorneys debating the issue.
One of the main concerns for opponents of the law is that they believe the states have no right to enforce immigration law.
“It can’t be a patchwork of state laws,” said Cecilia Wang, who is the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrant’s Rights Project.
“The Constitution says it is exclusively in the federal government’s hands,” she said.
Other attorneys, including Marielena Hincapié, the Executive Director of the National Immigration Law center, said the laws violate not only the Constitution but certain human rights.
“The states’ intent has been solely to intimidate and horrify immigrant families so they leave the states of Georgia and Alabama,” Hincapié said. “These laws HB 56 and HB 87 have created a crisis in these states.”
The key provisions of Georgia’s law, HB 87 were blocked by a federal judge. The 11th Circuit heard arguments from both sides on Section 7 and Section 8. Section 7 is under scrutiny because it deals specifically with harboring and transporting illegal immigrants.
Section 8 concerns law enforcement officers. The law states that officers can check immigration status if there is probable cause, and what makes Georgia’s law different from Alabama’s is that the officer has the discretion to check their status or not.
So far, the Department of Justice has not decided to file suit against Georgia. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said there is a good reason why that has not happened.
“I think our Legislature did an excellent job in preparing House Bill 87,” said Olens. “They looked at the prior law and made specific provisions such as probable cause. So, from our perspective, we think the law is valid.”
A main argument during the appeal hearing was that these laws are unconstitutional because they undermine federal law.
Olens said that is not the case, either.
“That has been a red herring from the beginning,” said Olens. “This case relates to the enforcement of immigration laws and whether or not states have a partnership, and yes, we do. We have programs such as sed communities, 287 G. It is extremely common for law enforcement to work both on the state and federal area together. And what we need, frankly, is more of that collaboration as opposed to less.”
The 11th Circuit did not make a ruling today. Judges said they are waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on Arizona’s immigration law, which has similar provisions. That could happen later this year.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.