ATLANTA – The Georgia legislature has passed a discriminatory law authorizing police to demand "papers" from people they stop who they suspect are not authorized to be in the U.S. The law, a copycat version of the notorious law passed in Arizona, invites racial profiling of Latinos and others based on how they look or talk and interferes with federal law. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia strongly condemned the legislature’s decision to pass this unconstitutional law and warned of the serious threat it poses to the civil liberties and public safety of all Georgians.
"This law undermines our core American values of fairness and equality and will make the rampant racial profiling of people of color that is already going on in Georgia that much worse, threatening the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike," said Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. "Authorizing police to demand papers from people on the street is a tactic commonly associated with police states, not robust democracies."
The Georgia law authorizes police to demand “papers” from people they stop in the course of an offense, including traffic violations. All Georgians will have to carry “papers” on them at all times in order to avoid being detained while police try to determine their immigration status. The law creates new state-level immigration crimes and penalties that are inconsistent with federal law. Most sections of the law will go into effect on July 1, 2011.
“This law threatens the safety and security of all Georgians by diverting already limited resources away from law enforcement’s primary responsibility to provide protection and promote public safety in the community,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director. “This ill-conceived law sends a clear message to communities that the authorities are not to be trusted, making them less likely to come forward as survivors of or witnesses to crime.”
The ACLU and a coalition of civil rights organizations filed a class action lawsuit in May 2010 challenging Arizona’s SB 1070, the discriminatory law that inspired Georgia’s bill, charging that it invites the racial profiling of Latinos and others deemed to look or sound “foreign,” violates the First Amendment and interferes with federal law. The Department of Justice also filed a lawsuit challenging the law and a federal appellate court recently upheld the Arizona district court decision to block the core provisions of the law.
“We stand committed to defending the civil liberties of all Americans from unconstitutional laws that lead to racial profiling and ‘papers please’ harassment. The ACLU will continue to be on the front lines fighting discriminatory laws like these across the country,” said Omar Jadwat, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.