Moderated by Rick Badie
A federal ruling recently upheld the centerpiece of Georgia’s get-tough immigration law, the “show-me-your-papers” provision. It allows police officers to check the immigration status of those they stop. A guest writer says the statute invites racial profiling. I interview a proponent of strict immigration law who calls the practice a common-sense tool.
By Rick Badie
A federal appeals court’s ruling that allows Georgia to enforce its “show-me-your-papers” provision has critics of illegal immigration declaring victory and proponents vowing to continue fighting the law. Catherine Davis, legislative director for the Network of Political Active Christians, fields questions about Georgia’s immigration law.
Q: Do you think the “show-me-your-papers” provision of the law opens the gate for racial profiling?
A: Absolutely not. This law is more restrictive on law enforcement than is found in most racial profiling cases. The Georgia law says that local law enforcement investigating suspected violations of state or federal crimes can investigate immigration status for suspects who cannot provide proof of lawful presence. The focus should be on the fact that the individual being investigated cannot provider proper ID, a violation of existing law. I think it is a common-sense tool.
Q: How can this provision not lead to racial profiling?
A: For it to be racist, every police officer who requests information on the legal status of someone who cannot show identification would have to be Caucasian. That is far from the case, especially in counties like Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb. “Illegal” is not a race. The law was created to make Georgia an inhospitable place for all people who violate our immigration laws.
Q: What are your thoughts on Georgia’s immigration law in general?
A: The main cause of illegal immigration is illegal employment. We need to tighten the E-Verify mandates and crack down on the local governments and agency heads who are ignoring parts of the laws already on the books.
Q: What concerns you about illegal immigration?
A: No individual should expect to violate the law and then be rewarded. That is what the illegal aliens are asking us to do, ignore that they are here illegally. Ongoing illegal immigration is costing the Georgia taxpayer, according to estimates provided by Gov. Nathan Deal, more than $2.4 billion annually. Passing and enforcing state immigration and employment laws are a no-brainer as we work to safeguard our jobs, budget and quality of life.
Q: Alabama and Georgia, two Southern states, have some of toughest immigrations laws in the country. Given their racial history, what chord does that strike with you as an African-American woman?
A: I find it politically, socially and morally insulting that so many illegal aliens and their organizers have tried to use the civil rights movement as a rallying cry for their illegal status. Blacks in this state and Alabama who were here legally were lynched, denied education and access to facilities simply because of the color of their skin. There is no civil or constitutional right to be exempted from American immigration laws. I resent those who would attempt to justify their illegal behavior by tying it to the struggle of African Americans to obtain constitutional rights.
By Azadeh N. Shahshahani
By blocking Georgia’s attempts to criminalize acts of hospitality, faith, and conscience, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a decision that affects the daily lives of many people in Georgia.
One of these is Everitt Howe, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, a caseworker for his church’s community service program. Howe regularly accompanies and drives families and individuals, including those who are undocumented, to hospital visits or other appointments. He fears that could be found criminally liable. Because of people like Howe, we are pleased the court blocked this fundamentally un-American provision.
The ruling was issued pursuant to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other organizations charging that the extreme law endangers public safety, invites racial profiling of people of color and others who look or sound “foreign,” and interferes with federal law. The court’s ruling made it clear that the state cannot put into effect policies that could interfere with the federal government’s regulation of immigration. The court struck down the provision criminalizing daily interactions with undocumented individuals, which would have made people vulnerable to arrest and detention for acts of kindness.
Another part of the law before the court was the “show-me-your-papers” provision. The court reiterated there are limits on such laws under the Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona case. It left the door open to future challenges.
HB 87 promotes racial profiling by giving police officers discretion to determine what information is “sufficient” to prove a person’s identity and choose who to subject to an investigation. This will lead to the profiling of anyone who looks or sounds “foreign.” The statute undermines fundamental American values of fairness and equal protection.
Law enforcement leaders and police chiefs around the country have cautioned against putting local police in the position of enforcing federal immigration laws for fear it will alienate the communities endanger the public. Many immigrants will not come forward with crime information for fear they will be detained and investigated. As ACLU of Georgia investigations show, immigrant communities in Cobb and Gwinnett already fear the police. They are reluctant to report crime because of these counties’ involvement in immigration enforcement. This has led to an atmosphere of terror and isolation for immigrants and less-safe communities.
Take the 2009 case of a woman who called 911 to stop her partner from assaulting her. Cobb County officers relied on the abuser’s account of what happened, as she spoke little English. Her abuser’s side of the story was far from honest. She was separated from her infant daughter, spent five days in jail and was placed in deportation.
The ACLU and our partner organizations will forge ahead until unconstitutional provisions of HB 87 are struck down – or until this racial profiling law is repealed in its entirety.
Azadeh N. Shahshahani is director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project for the ACLU of Georgia.