The Plaintiffs’ litigation team, of which I am proud to be a part, just left oral argument in front of Judge Thrash. Omar Jadwat and Karen Tumlin both did a terrific job in their arguments on the constitutional issues and the severe harm that will befall immigrants, US citizens and permanent residents if HB 87 is allowed to go into effect.
Judge Thrash had numerous questions for the government lawyer, who argued, incorrectly that if all these undocumented people wanted to, they could just fix their status and become legal. The most honest thing the government attorney said, after repeat questioning by the Judge, was that US citizens who drive around their parents who are undocumented, and take them to the sore for groceries, and while doing so commit a traffic offense absolutely face arrest and jail for transporting and harboring. In fact, the government attorney compared such an activity (helping your mom get groceries) is just like cocaine possession. When she said this an audible gasp was heard across the courtroom. The government attorney also mischaracterized federal law and its similarity to provisions of HB 87, but failed to either recognize or acknowledge the plain fact that immigration is a federal issue in which the states have been invited to participate only in limited fashion, and that HB 87 fair exceeds this authority.
The government attorney also tried to justify HB 87 by saying that the law protects undocumented immigrants! Yes, she really said that! She then went on to say that the law is justified by all the costs created by undocumented immigrants in Georgia. However, she failed to note that there was no fiscal note in this bill and thus we have no idea how much money this bill either saves OR costs the state of Georgia. This irresponsible inaction on the part of the Georgia state legislature allows people like the government lawyer to use made up numbers from anti-immigration groups to justify state action, when the reality is much different. Immigrants, both documented and undocumented provide a net positive contribution to the economy of Georgia. It was clear that her economic arguments made no impact on the judge, as they should not have as they had nothing to do with the reason for HB 87.
Finally, the judge repeatedly asked the state’ s attorney what the purpose of the law was. She responsed with arguments about economics, crime, healthcare, and even the aforementioned protection of undoumented immigrants. But, the judge was simmply not buyng it, and said, twice, “are you really telling me the the purpose of this law is to help undocumented immigrants? In noted exasperation, he finally said, “counsel, move on, you are not answering my question”!
The only question the judge had for Omar was “where is the federal government?” Good question! Where was the Federal Government? Someone should ask Eric Holder where he was.
At the end of the the argument, which lasted about 90 minutes, Judge Thrash said that he would not be ruling from the bench but that he would likely rule by July 1, 2011, the effective date of the law. I expect a ruling shortly before that date. No one knows, other than Judge Thrash, how he is going to rule. But I remain confident, and repeat what I have been saying since January when the state legislature first took this law up: the law is unconstitutional and I believe an injunction will be granted.