LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Mexican citizen ticketed for driving without a license in Gwinnett will be challenging state driver's license laws in front of Georgia's highest court, arguing the laws are discriminatory and encourage police to racially profile.
Buford resident Fernando Castillo-Solis, 31, is appealing to the Georgia Supreme Court an earlier ruling by Gwinnett Courts denying his motion to suppress evidence in a 2010 traffic arrest that he claims was unconstitutional. The case is scheduled to be argued in Atlanta on Monday afternoon,
Castillo-Solis, a Mexican national who's resided in Georgia for more than a decade, was driving a 2002 Chevy van in January 2010 when he was pulled over by Gwinnett police Officer David Cesar.
Cesar later testified he randomly runs license plate numbers through a computer system as part of his patrol duties. On the day in question, Cesar had determined the van's registration was suspended, and after learning Castillo-Solis was driving without a license, issued him two citations, federal court officials said Thursday.
Castillo-Solis filed motions to suppress the evidence, claiming Georgia's no license statute is unconstitutional. The statute requires drivers to obtain a Georgia driver's license within a month of becoming a resident. Charges are dropped for Georgia citizens who obtain a license prior to trial, the law states.
Castillo-Solis' attorney, Arturo Corso, argues that 2008 amendments to that statute, which increased penalties and required fingerprinting upon conviction, along with the 287(g) program at the Gwinnett jail, "work in concert to create a discriminatory scheme to target undocumented immigrants for arrest and deportation," his complaint reads.
As an undocumented immigrant, Castillo-Solis may not ever obtain a license -- and therefore is denied the right to defend his cause, his attorney argues. The statute, Corso argues, has created a "suspect class."
"This was the very purpose of the new law -- to round up undocumented aliens in a dragnet of license enforcement, and set free any Georgia citizens caught up in the process," Corso said.
In response, Gwinnett Solicitor-General Rosanna Szabo argues the driver had no right to challenged the state law as unconstitutional.
"(Castillo-Solis) did not qualify for a Georgia driver's license because he is not lawfully present in the United States," the written argument states. "Driving is a privilege, not a right ... and driving without a license is against the law."
The state also contends that Castillo-Solis has made no case that the goal of the revised driver's licensed statute is to deport undocumented immigrants.
Amendments to the statute have been in place for more than three years, "yet still, (Castillo-Solis) has presented no evidence of any illegal stops or racial profiling," the state argues.
Jail records indicate Castillo-Solis was not arrested during the traffic stop in question.
Gwinnett is the largest of four Georgia counties participating in the 287 (g) program, which authorizes local law enforcement to begin deportation proceedings on arrestees.
The program, launched in Gwinnett three years ago, has been fodder for immigrant rights supporters who staged rallies and summits in Gwinnett decrying it. Detractors contend the fast-track deportation program encourages racial profiling and discourages immigrants from reporting crimes, in fear of being deported.
Supporters hail the program as a means to ease jail crowding and save the county millions, while pulling law-breakers by the hundreds from streets and neighborhoods.