Supreme Court releases decisions on immigration, Ga. water wars

6:58 PM, Jun 25, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona's crackdown on immigrants. 

(Follow the coverage from 11Alive and others on Twitter #scotus)

But the court said Monday that one part of the law requiring police to check the status of someone they suspect is not in the United States legally could go forward. Even there, though, the justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenges.

READ | Full text of Supreme Court Immigration opinion

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens quickly issued a statement regarding the ramifications on Georgia's immigration law.

"My office participated in an amicus brief filed by 16 states in support of Arizona's right to partner with the federal government in enforcing immigration law," Olens said in a statement.  "I am pleased that the Supreme Court recognizes that states have an important role to play in upholding the law.  I look forward to further proceedings in the Eleventh Circuit regarding Georgia's immigration reform law in the light of this decision."

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal was also cautious in terms of the court decision's affect on Georgia's law.

"We'll have to wait to see how the ruling on the Arizona immigration law will affect our state's enforcement reforms because Georgia's law is not identical to Arizona's. That said, it appears the court has upheld the major thrust of our state's statute: That states have the right to assist in enforcing federal immigration law," Deal said in a statement released Monday morning.

Only one of the sections of Monday's Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's immigration law will affect Georgia's law. That upholding the Arizona section that "requires" local police to "make a reasonable attempt" to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop.

Section 8 of Georgia's House Bill 87 is less severe, and only "allows" police to check the immigration status when investigating someone for a violation of another law. This means the "paper check" section of Georgia's law is probably okay, since it is less strict.

The remaining three sections of the Arizona law that were struck down do not appear in Georgia's law, so they do not apply.

However, one section of Georgia's immigration law that was not addressed in the high court's decision on Monday was Section 7, called the "harboring an illegal immigrant" provision. This provision would make it a crime in the state of Georgia to transport and give shelter to an illegal immigrant.

It is possible that some of the wording of the the Supreme Court's ruling may bleed into the challenge of Georgia's Section 7, which is presently being considered by the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. At present, the sections of the Georgia law being challenged have been placed on hold.

Georgia's E-Verify provision, which is tied to companies checking the immigration status of workers, is not an issue at this point. The Supreme Court has already upheld another Arizona law that allows individual states to require companies to use that federal database checking system.

In a separate matter, the high court said they would not be hearing an appeal by Alabama and Florida on a decision regarding the long-standing water wars between those two states and Georgia.

Alabama and Florida sought to curtail the amount of water taken from the Chattahoochee River and Lake Lanier in order to protect endangered species in the lower Appalachicola River basin.

Gov. Nathan Deal claimed victory for Georgia on the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case.

"By denying a hearing of the decision of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the tri-state water case, the nation's highest court has affirmed that drinking water was always an authorized use of Lake Lanier," Deal said in a statement. "We felt confident in the firm grounding of the Eleventh Circuit ruling. We can now move forward with this issue behind us, have the governors work together and come to a long-term agreement that will provide for the water needs of all three states.

The high court's decision on President Obama's health care law is expected to be handed down on Thursday, the final day of the Supreme Court's session.


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