ATLANTA, Georgia — A federal judge has blocked a bill in the southern US state of Georgia which would have allowed law enforcement officials to verify the immigration status of suspects stopped even for minor traffic violations.
US District Judge Thomas Thrash's 45-page ruling Monday determined that the controversial measure was too draconian and could not be not be applied "equitably" throughout the state -- even if it managed to "prevent some unauthorized aliens from obtaining state benefits."
The law, adopted by the Georgia state legislature in April, would have gone into effect on July 1. It was challenged by Latino groups in the state.
Thrash's decision also suspended a provision in the bill that would have punished people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants.
The judge wrote in this finding that "state and local law enforcement officers and officials have no authorization to arrest, detain or prosecute" based on the provision, as long has his injunction is in effect.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal plans to appeal the court's ruling, his office said through a spokesman, adding that the court decision underscores the federal government's role as an "obstacle" to the state resolving its immigration problems.
"Governor Deal is disappointed that the court enjoined two sections of Georgia's immigration law," said Brian Robinson, the governor's deputy chief of staff for communications on Monday.
"Curiously, the court writes 'all illegal aliens will leave Georgia' if the law is enforced, as if it is appalled at the thought of people attaining visas before coming to our nation."
The law decision was a victory for Georgia's rapidly growing Hispanic community, which had feared police would arrest and indefinitely detain those without proper immigration papers.
The law has been controversial here in recent weeks because farmers in the state, who rely on undocumented workers from neighboring Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, insist the law is scaring away workers and there is a shortage of help to pick crops.
Hispanic leaders also feared that undocumented parents would be separated from children, who, if born in the United States, would be legal citizens.
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