The law department of the city of Atlanta would look at the complaint and the ordinance to determine if acceptance of the MC identification is illegal under state immigration law, officials said.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash said two provisions of the law — a requirement that law enforcement officers check the immigration status of people who can’t provide IDs, and punishments for anyone who harbors or transports anyone else illegally present in the country — unlawfully preempt federal statutes. He issued an injunction to prevent them from taking effect July 1, 2011.
But the rest of the law remains are in effect now, including phased-in requirements for businesses and local/state governments and agencies to check the immigration status of new hires, penalties of up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for people who use fake identification documents to get a job in Georgia, and requirements that anyone receiving public benefits such as food stamps provide a “secure and verifiable” ID document.
While there are a lot of issues buried within the depths of the text of HB 87, two disputes rise up that I feel demand quick analysis: a dispute by taxi drivers over the law regarding a knowing transportation section of the law, and a rather overblown dispute over agricultural hiring practices which (more liberal) news organizations are claiming could result in millions of dollars of wasted produce.
I: The Taxi Case
Georgia taxi drivers have filed suit against HB 87, arguing that a provision that makes knowing transportation of illegal immigrants a misdemeanor would “burden them with the responsibility of checking the immigration status of each and every one of their passengers.” This claim is almost assuredly false.
HB 87′s illegal-transportation provision states, in part, that:
[a] person who, (1) while committing another criminal offense, (2) knowingly and intentionally transports or moves an illegal alien in a motor vehicle for the purpose of furthering the illegal presence of the alien in the United States shall be guilty of the offense of transporting or moving an illegal alien. (emphasis and numbers added)
In essence, in order for a taxi driver to be convicted of this crime, the taxi driver must (1) be committing another criminal offense AND (2) knowingly and intentionally transport or move an illegal alien. Even without provision (1), the mens rea requirement of provision (2) protects taxi drivers, who would likely only know the citizenship of their passengers under extraordinary circumstances. Georgia taxi drivers need not even worry about some overzealous interpretation of the law tied to the concept of “willful blindness” — given that there are many non-English-speaking South
American immigrants in Georgia, to presume a taxi driver has some form of constructive knowledge about his passenger based upon their ethnicity is ridiculous and racist. Perhaps worst yet, one wonders what crimes taxi drivers wish to be up to with immigrants in tow.
While there are many arguments to be made against HB 87 that deserve their day in court, this taxi case is not one of them. This is the kind of litigation summary judgments were made for.
II: The Agricultural Dispute
Georgia’s agricultural industry is also fighting HB 87 tooth-and-nail.
Not terribly surprisingly, Georgia’s agricultural industry hires and houses a lot of illegal aliens, and farmers aren’t terribly pleased that their illegal, sub-minimum-wage workers aren’t available:
Farmers say the Hispanic migrant workers they depend on to pick their fruits and vegetables are bypassing Georgia to work in other states. The workers are concerned they will be harassed or jailed here following the passage of HB 87, the farmers said.
In short, farmers are losing illegal immigrant labor, and they can’t afford to (or simply don’t want to) hire American citizens for minimum wage. As a result of this refusal, Georgia farmers are losing crops, and they are blaming HB 87.
A close examination of this alleged issue raises more questions about the farmers’ business practices than it does about HB 87. Considering HB 87 was passed in April and does not apply until July, why did farmers not prepare for this before they were forced to forgo picking crops? Are farmers actually implying that they should be given carte blanche to hire illegal aliens (in violation of federal law, no less) on the basis of sheer economic necessity? Is there any proof that police would harass or jail farm workers without some proof that they were illegal aliens? What are farmers currently paying these aliens and, more importantly, why can they not find American workers when the employment rate in Georgia is 9.8%?
I’ll confess, there is a plausible, albeit weak, argument to be made in the farmers’ defense. If we are to assume that police are wholly wanton and capricious with their powers, they could likely use the provisions of HB 87 to intimidate legal Latino workers with repeated citizenship checks. There are some people alleging that police tend to disproportionately target Latino workers when enforcing immigration laws. In this sense, one could argue that HB 87 is arguably legal on its face, but that it promotes de facto discrimination by police against Latinos working for Georgia farmers. The problem with this argument is simple: it not only requires police actually abuse the power (a highly subjective test, especially without evidence of police procedures and what evidence police work with in any given stop), but it also requires a showing that the law itself is more or less the cause of the discrimination. It seems unlikely that the ACLU (or any litigant, for that matter) would be able to prove that bad cops would be any less likely to harass Latinos workers were HB 87 not in existence.
Georgia farmers have been exploiting the lax enforcement of immigration policies for some time, and HB 87 is clearly a threat to their profits. While we all certainly like and benefit from cheap produce, law should not bend to the economic convenience of an industry, no matter how large and influential the industry is. If berries and corn cannot be grown as cheap as they are without illegal labor, then the price is unreasonably low, and it should be fixed.
III: In Conclusion
While this article may infer that HB 87 is entirely legal, I do not intend to make such a statement. As I mentioned in section I, there are many valid arguments to be made about various parts of HB 87, all of which deserve their day in court and in the political arena. Nonetheless, both in regards to the taxi complaints and the agricultural dispute, many claims against HB 87 are misinformed, misleading, or simply erroneous.