ATLANTA, Georgia — A federal judge has blocked an immigration bill in the southern US state of Georgia which would have allowed law enforcement officials to verify the migratory status of suspects stopped even for a minor traffic offense.
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 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.
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.