From Politico.com, Reid J. Epstein, 27 Jun 2011.
A federal judge in Atlanta blocked portions of Georgia’s new law that would have punished people who aid illegal immigrants and allowed local police to check the legal status of anyone not carrying identification, The Associated Press reported Monday.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash wrote that Georgia was seeking to enforce an immigration law that is the jurisdiction of the federal government.
The law, which was to take effect July 1, led to thousands of migrant workers fleeing the state or avoiding it entirely, leaving Georgia’s agriculture industry in peril as farms struggled to find enough workers to pick their crops.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal responded with a program to have the state’s probationers fill an estimated 11,000 vacant crop-picking posts, though most of those workers walked off their jobs or did not return for a second day, according to top officials in the Georgia farm lobby.
Deal’s spokesman said the governor plans to appeal the ruling.
“Gov. Deal is disappointed that the court enjoined two sections of Georgia’s immigration law,” spokesman Brian Robinson said. “The federal court’s ruling, however, will crystallize for Georgians and other Americans our underlying problem: Beyond refusing to help with our state’s illegal immigration problem, the federal government is determined to be an obstacle. The state of Georgia narrowly tailored its immigration law to conform with existing federal law and court rulings. Georgians can rest assured that this battle doesn’t end here; we will appeal this decision.”
Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, said he hopes but is not optimistic that the ruling will stop the flood of migrant workers leaving the state.
“We hope that it might slow down that fear factor,” he told POLITICO. “While we’ve already seen a significant amount of loss in those critical workforces. There was a feeling … that there were going to be more departing this week. Maybe now they won’t be so quick to depart.”
A spokeswoman for Deal said he would issue a statement on the ruling shortly.
Tolar was in Washington last week to lobby the Georgia congressional delegation to back a guest worker program. The court ruling, he said, is “better than nothing, but it’s not the solution we need.”
Georgia’s law is the latest in a series of state-level crackdowns on undocumented immigrants. Since Arizona enacted its immigration bill, which was challenged by the federal government, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina have followed.