State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) said the provisions in the Arizona law that the Supreme Court struck down are not in the Georgia law he helped write last year.
Moreover, Golick said, “the Arizona provision the Court upheld goes further than the Georgia law, so it seems as if the Georgia law had a good day at the Supreme Court, and it seems to validate the measured approach taken by (state Rep. Matt Ramsey, a Peachtree City Republican) and myself.”
Georgia’s HB 87 was signed into law last year and is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and others in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. The ACLU argues that Georgia’s law is “anti-immigrant” and designed to force immigrants out of the country by making their lives miserable.
In March, the Court of Appeals put the case on hold pending any decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the Arizona case. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, Attorney General Sam Olens said he expects the 11th Circuit Court to make its ruling in the next 30 to 45 days.
Olens said Monday’s ruling “reaffirms that states have a role to play in partnership with the federal government on immigration issues, and we look forward to the 11th Circuit carefully reviewing today’s Supreme Court decision and ruling on those two sections on HB 87. I frankly continue to be optimistic and I believe the 11th Circuit will do a very nice job for our state.”
Golick said the most significant provision of Georgia’s law is the requirement that private businesses use the federal E-Verify system to confirm the legal status of employees. Specifically, businesses with 10 or more employees must sign an affidavit swearing to use E-Verify before they can obtain or renew a business license or occupational tax certificate. Until HB 87, only public employers, such as the city of Marietta, and their contractors were required to use E-Verify on newly hired employees. The law also clarified the authority of local law enforcement by allowing them to inquire into an individual’s immigration status only when that person is under investigation for another crime.
State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) said he was also pleased with the court’s decision in the Arizona case because it recognizes that states have an important role in enforcing immigration. Hill said by upholding an Arizona provision that is similar to a provision in Georgia’s law, which allows state and local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of criminal suspects, the U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed that states can implement “a common-sense and important public safety measure.”
“Today’s ruling confirms our belief that not only was Georgia’s House Bill 87 an important step in protecting taxpayers from the social and economic consequences of illegal immigration, but the statute was also drafted to withstand constitutional scrutiny,” Hill said. “At the state level, we must continue to create laws and provisions which protect those who are here legally.”
Immigration reformer D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society called the ruling “a huge loss for the anti-enforcement coalition here and in the White House and a victory for the majority of Georgians who are pro-enforcement.”
“Today, the United States Supreme Court has again made it very clear that state and local governments have an important role to play in enforcing federal immigration laws,” King said. “We know that attrition of the illegal alien population through enforcement of the law works where elected officials have the courage to move forward.”
Rich Pellegrino, director of the Austell-based Cobb Immigrant Alliance, said he also approved of the ruling, but for different reasons: He believes the ruling puts Georgia’s law in jeopardy.
“I think it’s clear that Georgia’s law is dead, as well as Alabama’s,” Pellegrino said.
While pleased, Pellegrino also said he would have preferred for the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision on the Arizona immigration law, known as SB1070, to have been unanimous.
“It’s clear that this is a federal issue,” he said. “I don’t know why there would be any dissenting opinion, but to me it’s a step in the right direction. Everything that’s happening in the last several weeks have been a step in the direction towards comprehensive immigration reform, and this is just another significant step. Of course in Cobb County we’re enthused because this shows that the efforts in Georgia and Alabama, but especially here in Georgia and Cobb County specifically, have been misdirected, misguided and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”