A three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled on preliminary injuctions halting enforcement of Georgia's new immigration law. The justices ruled Monday that police in Georgia can investigate a suspect’s immigration status and take illegal immigrants to jail.
But another court considering the case must also rule before the so-called “show me your papers” law goes into effect.
The court ruled that police can have the option to check the immigration status of suspects and take them to jail if they can’t prove they’re in the country legally.
But Jose Perez, with the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, says justices also noted in the ruling there are potential problems with allowing officers to pick and choose when to apply the law.
He says “The investigation of a person’s immigration status once they’ve been detained is optional. And they had a footnote saying we recognize that the non-mandatory nature invites a host of other problems, namely racial profiling.”
Frank Vincent Rotondo with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police says if the law does go forward, officers will be trained not to discriminate.
He says “It is a perception certainly, that profiling has been used in our state and in other states. It may be a reality, but good law enforcement units do have policies and procedures to safeguard against that.”
Rotondo says if the law goes forward, that could lead immigrants in some communities to be less trustful of police, making their job harder.
“It might make it a lot more difficult because you have to rely upon them who are victimized to be witnesses and come forward to give information.” he says.
Jose Perez says the law could also make a bad situation worse.
He says “The practical effect I think will be to embolden more of this sort of questioning by police. What it provides for is already de facto happening, because of the federal secure communities program.”
The 11th circuit court also ruled to keep on hold a section of the law that would punish people for knowingly transporting illegal immigrants or harboring illegal immigrants while committing other crimes.
Both sides have 21 days to appeal. Otherwise, the entire case goes back to the District Court for resolution.