Civil Rights Coalition in Court to Challenge AL & GA Anti-Immigrant Laws


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 1, 2012

CONTACT: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org.

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit for the first time heard argument in the legal challenges to Georgia’s and Alabama’s extreme anti-immigrant laws. During the hearing in Atlanta, civil rights attorneys told a panel of three judges that the laws, Georgia’s HB 87 and Alabama’s HB 56, endanger public safety; invite racial profiling of Latinos, Asians, and others who appear foreign; and interfere with federal law.

"These anti-immigrant laws are inherently anti-Latino," Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF said. They encourage law enforcement and ordinary citizens to view and treat all Latinos--regardless of their immigration status-- with prejudice."

“The Alabama and Georgia anti-immigrant laws have created a police state where citizens and immigrants alike are subject to inquisitions during traffic stops, and state employees [ah1] and ordinary people are asked to view their neighbors with suspicion,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The U.S. Constitution does not tolerate such intrusions on our liberty.”

The two cases represent the first civil rights challenges to pernicious anti-immigrant legislation to reach the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The coalition of civil rights group asked the court to leave in place an injunction against major provisions of the Georgia law, and to halt implementation of the worst elements of the Alabama law.

“Today we asked the court to strike down both the Alabama and Georgia anti-immigrant laws as unconstitutional,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the SPLC. “Both of these laws have trampled on civil rights and encouraged rampant prejudice against immigrants – especially Latinos – without regard to status.”

In Georgia, as in Arizona, Utah, Indiana, and South Carolina, a federal district court blocked several provisions of the state’s anti-immigrant law, including one that would have authorized law enforcement officers to demand “papers” of individuals in a variety of settings, from going into effect. In Alabama, however, major components of HB 56 were allowed to take effect. The calls [ah2] that subsequently flooded a coalition-created legal hotline painted a picture of immediate widespread discrimination and rights violations.

“Alabama presents a cautionary tale for any state looking to impose its own immigration law upon its inhabitants,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center. “Citizens as well as immigrants in Alabama have suffered tremendous rights violations from an unconstitutional law that threatens our most cherished freedoms. The Eleventh Circuit can and should stop this law before it causes further damage to Alabama’s society and economy, and the court should affirm the injunction that prevents Georgians from undergoing the same irreparable violations suffered by their neighbors.”

Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said: “With all the pressing issues facing our state and our country, it is a shame that our legislature thinks that criminalizing acts of charity and neighborliness is a good use of their time. I have faith that this mean-spirited law will not remain on the books in our state.”

Until the appeals court issues a decision, the lower courts’ rulings in both cases will remain in effect.

“Alabama is home to a growing Asian American community and we are deeply concerned that HB 56 only causes more fear and isolation among these communities. Asian Americans have a long history of being targeted with exclusionary policies like these; this is a civil rights crisis and this must not happen in America again,” said Marita Etcubañez, Director of Programs at the Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

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