Georgia Judge Hears Arguments on Immigration Debate

Two sides of a closely watched immigration debate in Georgia were presented on Monday to a federal judge, who said he would not make an immediate ruling.

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The judge, Thomas Thrash, heard arguments on a request by civil liberties groups to block Georgia's law cracking down on illegal immigration from taking effect until a legal challenge is resolved.

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The groups have filed a lawsuit asking a judge to find the law unconstitutional and to prevent its enforcement and also filed a request that the judge block the law from taking effect until that lawsuit is resolved. Thrash heard arguments from lawyers for the groups and from a lawyer for the state who said the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Omar Jadwat with the American Civil Liberties Union argued the law is deeply flawed and fundamentally unconstitutional and infringes on federal authority. Senior Assistant Attorney General Devon Orland said the state should be immune from such challenges and that the measure is needed because the state's medical facilities and prisons are being strained by the presence of illegal immigrants.

At the end of the hearing, Thrash said he needs more time to consider the arguments because the legal and constitutional issues at play are complex. He expects to decide on the attempt to block the law and the request to dismiss the lawsuit before July 1, when most parts of the law take effect.

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