When a federal judge blocked some parts of Georgia's new law targeting illegal immigration earlier this week, both sides were quick to claim victory. But with the remaining parts of the law set to take effect Friday, there is some confusion about who will be immediately affected and how.
State Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, said she's gotten a lot of calls from constituents — including landscapers, roofers and farmers — who have questions about the new law.
"It's been a confusing law from the beginning for a number of people in my area," she said. "After the ruling, it was like, well, now what does it mean."
Judge Thomas Thrash on Monday granted a request by civil liberties groups to block two sections of the law until a lawsuit they filed challenging its constitutionality can be resolved.
"There is confusion about the law, about the judge's decision and about what is going into effect," said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
One of those sections authorizes police to check the immigration status of suspects without proper identification and to detain illegal immigrants. The other creates a state penalty for people who knowingly and willingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing another crime.
The parts of the law that take effect Friday include:
— a new felony offense with hefty penalties for using false information or documentation when applying for a job;
— the creation of an immigration review board to investigate complaints about government officials not complying with state laws related to illegal immigration;
— fines and possible removal from office for any public official who fails to use federal databases to verify the immigration status of new hires or applicants for public benefits;
— instructions for the state Agriculture Department to study the effects of immigration on that sector, to suggest improvements for federal guest worker programs and to study the possibility of a state guest worker program.
Starting Jan. 1:
— businesses with 500 or more employees will have to use a federal database called E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires, a requirement that will be phased in for all businesses with more than 10 employees by July 2013.
— applicants for public benefits will have to provide at least one state or federally issued "secure and verifiable" document. The state attorney general must provide a list of such documents by Aug. 1.