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Georgia Immigration Law Could Force Taxi Drivers To Check Passengers’ Immigration Status

Andrea Nill Sanchez

Yesterday, a federal judge heard arguments in the legal challenge brought against Georgia’s new immigration law by advocacy and civil rights groups. The plaintiffs in the case argue that the law — modeled after Arizona’s immigration legislation — is federally preempted, would promote racial profiling, and violate the Fourth Amendment. Those aren’t the only problems with Georgia’s new immigration policy.

Several taxi companies and more than 2,000 cab drivers have filed their own lawsuit against the law. Their grievance has to do with a specific provision which would make it a misdemeanor to transport fewer than seven undocumented immigrants and a felony to drive any more than that. The cab drivers claim that this would burden them with the responsibility of checking the immigration status of each and every one of their passengers. (Not to mention the potential invasion of privacy that the law would inflict on their customers). The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports:

On Monday, an Atlanta attorney Quinton Washington of the law firm Bell & Washington LLC, WXIA reporter Jeff Hullinger there are unintended consequences of the law that could affect passengers. Washington said if a cab or limo drivers is pulled over for speeding, or for a broken taillight, police have the right to ask for proof of citizenship of passengers. [...]

A concern is that many immigrants use cabs to buy groceries and run other errands, and cab drivers don’t want to be responsible for asking all of them for documentation paperwork.


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“It is our hope that the legislature and local law enforcement authorities would not seek to penalize drivers for simply taking people from point A to point B,” stated Washington.

The attorney in the suit also noted that the immigration law doesn’t just raise legal issues for the taxi cab industry, it also carries implications for public transportation workers and other transportation companies. “Right now MARTA could be fined under this,” Washington said. “They don’t have a common carrier exception for buses and MARTA, etc. They only have exceptions for people transporting known undocumented persons if they are going to judicial proceedings and told to do so by the courts.”

Along similar lines, during yesterday’s hearing, the federal judge also questioned whether U.S. citizens should be prosecuted for driving their undocumented immigrant parents to the grocery store. The judge indicated that he will issue his decision on whether to enjoin the law before July 1, when it is scheduled to take effect.

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