Thrash cleared the way for Georgia law enforcement authorities to begin checking the immigration status of criminal suspects who fail to produce proper identification.
The decision came in connection with Georgia’s Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act (HB 87) passed last year. Judge Thrash had put preliminary injunctions in place last year preventing enforcement of two provisions of the law, pending the outcome of a legal challenge against it by various “pro-illegal” groups.
One of Thrash’s injunctions blocks the part of the law that makes it illegal to knowingly harbor or transport an illegal immigrant during the commission of a crime. That injunction remains in place.
The other provision in question — and the far more significant of the two — makes clear that it is legal for police, sheriffs, etc., to verify the immigration status of criminal suspects. Opponents of the law like to call this the “show me your papers” statute in an effort to make opponents sound like the Gestapo, when in fact, they merely favor strict enforcement of our laws. Had the courts struck down that provision, it might have weakened the underpinnings of the federal 287(g) immigration program that allows local law enforcers to check the immigration status of those taken to jail on other charges. Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, who was the first in Georgia to make use of 287(g) back in 2007, has turned over about 10,000 inmates to ICE since then. Opponents of the section of HB 87 in question and of the 287(g) program claim that they encourage racial profiling, but have never been able to produce verifiable evidence that is the case.
A three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had said in August that police could start enforcing that provision unless the state or the plaintiffs asked for a rehearing by the full court. Thrash quietly signed an order that showed up in an online filing system on Tuesday which lifts that part of the injunction. It means that law enforcement agencies can immediately start enforcing that section of the law.
It’s worth reiterating that Georgia (and other states like Arizona and Alabama) only passed such laws because of Washington’s failure to lead. We now have the spectacle of a president using an executive order to open the door to millions of illegals already in this country in order to allow them to compete for your job.
But thanks to HB 87 and the courts, and to Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens of east Cobb, who defended the state’s law in court, it is now clear that state and local governments have at least a measure of legal authority to protect themselves from the ill effects of illegal immigration.