ATLANTA (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled Monday that law enforcement in Georgia may verify the immigration status of criminal suspects who fail to produce proper identification.
A three-judge panel of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that a lower court's hold blocking that section of the state's 2011 immigration law should be lifted. It was not immediately clear when that would happen.
The panel did leave in place part of the injunction blocking a section that allows for the prosecution of certain individuals who knowingly harbor or transport an illegal immigrant during the commission of a crime.
A lower court must still rule on the broader challenge to the law by activist groups and labor unions. Monday's decision dealt only with preliminary injunctions.
The decision tracks a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding parts of a similar law in Arizona. The Atlanta-based court referenced that decision in its opinion to lift the injunction on the verification section, also known as section 8.
"In Arizona v. United States, the Supreme Court approved of a similar state provision, and in light of that holding we likewise conclude at this stage of litigation that Plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on the claim that section 8 is pre-empted by federal law," the panel wrote.
In a statement, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said he was generally pleased with the ruling but disagreed with the court on the section still being blocked.
"After over a year of litigation, only one of the 23 sections of (House Bill) 87 has been invalidated. We are currently reviewing the 11th Circuit's ruling to determine whether further appeal would be appropriate at this stage of the case," Olens said.
ACLU lawyer Omar Jadwat said he was disappointed the court didn't keep the injunction for the verification section but was pleased with the court's decision to keep one part of the injunction.
"I think it's a strong sign that all the state harboring laws will go down," Jadwat said.
State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, sponsored the immigration bill. "Just as we were pleased when the US Supreme Court upheld one of the center pieces of the Arizona law ... we are pleased that the 11th Circuit has upheld a similar provision in our Georgia law," Ramsey said.