By Marian Wang, ProPublica
Last week, we noted that several states' tough, new immigration laws have been challenged in court. Arizona and Utah both recently had key parts of their laws blocked by federal judges.
Now, add Georgia and Indiana to the list.
On Monday, a federal judge in Georgia blocked the most contentious provisions
of the state's new immigration law. The judge ruled that requiring
police to check the immigration status of suspects who cannot produce
identification amounted to "an end-run" around federal law. Another
broadly written provision making it a crime to harbor or transport an
undocumented immigrant was also blocked. U.S. District Judge Tom Trash
ruled that had the provision been allowed to go into effect, it would be
illegal to give a ride to a friend who is undocumented: "This is a good
reason to require supervision of any attempts by Georgia to enforce
illegal immigration law," he wrote.
The ruling follows another decision by another federal judge on Friday to temporarily block key parts
of Indiana's new immigration law. According to that judge, the state's
attempt to enact an immigration law without infringing on federal
authority was "seriously flawed and generally unsuccessful."
But in both cases, the judges upheld provisions that expanded the use
of E-Verify, a federal program that allows employers to check the
eligibility of prospective employees. Critics have said its error rates
render it ineffective. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services, the program "accurately detects the status of unauthorized
workers almost half of the time."
Nonetheless, Georgia's law makes E-Verify mandatory for all employers. That appears to have put a strain on the state's agricultural industry, which has had to scramble for workers as
undocumented workers have fled to avoid the crackdown. Indiana's law
requires state and local government contractors to use E-Verify and
gives any employer using E-Verify a break from some new penalties
if they're caught employing an undocumented worker, the Indianapolis
Star noted. Both those provisions are slated to go into effect on
South Carolina and Alabama will likely be next in line for court challenges. South Carolina's governor signed a law Monday
requiring employers to use E-Verify and requiring police to check the
immigration status of anyone they've stopped and suspect is
undocumented. Alabama enacted its law earlier this month and,
according to USA Today, supporters of the law are actually looking forward to a challenge:
Michael Hethmon of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which has
been helping state lawmakers draft Arizona-like laws around the country,
said Alabama legislators were hoping for a legal challenge when they
passed their law, thinking they could get a different ruling than the
one issued in Phoenix by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, who blocked
the Arizona law last year.
The Alabama legislators "looked at Judge Bolton"s reasoning and
said, 'We're not on the left coast here, we're in the 11th Circuit, and
we think we're going to get a different interpretation by a different
judge,'" Hethmon said.
So far, politics haven't appeared to play a significant role. Judges
in four separate circuit courts -- both Democrat and Republican
appointees -- have moved to block what they've said are overreaching