• Federal Judge Enjoins Portions of Georgia Immigration Law
  • July 11, 2011 | Author: David Whitlock
  • Law Firm: Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson, LLP - Atlanta Office
  • US District Court Judge Thomas Thrash issued an order on June 27 enjoining enforcement of portions of HB87, Georgia's Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011. The court's decision delays enforcement of the criminal provisions of the Georgia statute that were much like the Arizona statute enjoined by the federal district and appellate courts and awaiting Supreme Court review.
    The court's ruling confirms that immigration is the subject of federal jurisdiction and that criminal sanctions and penalties resulting from or related to immigration status should not be imposed by the states. The decision comes at the 11th hour, as the enforcement portions of the law were set to take effect on July 1.
    The decision should be welcome news for Georgia farmers facing dire labor shortages for crops that must be picked by hand. This is particularly so because Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's proposed solution to the labor shortage -- putting convicts on probation to work in the fields -- was a demonstrable failure after only a couple of days. The probationers were able to pick only one fifth of the amount of crops picked by migrant and seasonal workers working next to them in the fields. Moreover, most of the probationers abandoned the job before the end of the second day. Unfortunately, the court's ruling probably comes too late for the state's blueberry, peach, and cucumber harvests.
    Notwithstanding the federal challenges, other states are enacting similar legislation. Following the Arizona statute, anti-immigrant legislation has been adopted in Utah, Georgia, Indiana, and Alabama. The South Carolina legislature enacted similar measures, which Gov. Haley is expected to sign this week.
    It is important to note that the portions of the Georgia law requiring employers to enroll in E-Verify have not been enjoined. Indeed, in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding Arizona's E-Verify statute, state-based E-Verify requirements that are grounded in licensing schemes will almost certainly survive preemption challenges. As a result, it is likely that more states will enact E-Verify requirements for all employers.
    While the outcome of the enforcement provisions of the Georgia legislation remains unclear, enforcement of immigration requirements will not likely go away. More and more employers are taking a closer look at electronic I-9 software that reduces errors, improves overall compliance, and perhaps most important, automatically links to the federal E-Verify system.