Georgia’s “Show Me Your Papers” Law – Guest Blog

Guest Blog By Lianne Holt-Jensen
J.D.Candidate 2014
Seattle University School of Law

On December 15th, 2012, Georgia’s “show-me-your-papers” law was reinforced. This law gives law enforcement, in Georgia, the power to investigate the immigration status of suspects and to detain these suspects if they are believed to be undocumented residents. Police officers in Georgia have the discretion to decide whether to investigate a suspect’s immigration status or to detain a suspect on the basis of immigration status. This allows the police officers to decide what characteristics and circumstances qualify for an inquiry about a person’s immigration status.

Georgia is not the only state allowing law enforcement to demand to see a person’s papers. On September 5th, 2012, a judge re-approved Arizona’s right to the same investigative power. This followed a ruling by the United States Supreme Court upholding the “show-me-your-papers” law. Similar to the law in Georgia, police officers in Arizona have the discretion to determine when to question or detain an individual based on immigration status.

Besides Arizona and Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah also have similar provisions.

A common criticism of the “show-me-your-papers” law is that it leads to racial profiling. Since there are no set guidelines to follow when determining when to investigate a suspect’s immigration status, officers can pick any characteristic to qualify as a reason for investigating. This leads in a general racial profiling as many of those who are investigated or detained are Latino. This will result in a tense relationship between the police and the Latino communities based on a fear of being investigated. This also means that Latinos won’t be as eager to come forward with evidence and won’t call for help if it means they might be detained and investigated.

Another issue is the increase in policing, as there are not enough funds to hire more policemen and yet these officers must make thousands of calls just to check the immigration status of a detained individual. This will result in taking away time from investigating crimes and other emergency calls when police officers are spending time on the phone checking an immigration status of an individual for a minor traffic violation.

The “show-me-your-papers” law is discriminatory to discriminatory to those who are being investigated because of characteristics that deem them “undocumented”. Those who are being investigated for minor violations or even just because police officers can do so are not the types of criminal immigrants that should be removed. This law just creates another difficulty of being a minority in America.

Disclaimer: Guests posts do not necessarily express the viewpoint of the Law Office of Andre Olivie. Guests posts and blog posts are meant for general informational purposes only and not meant to be taken as legal-advice. Speak with an immigration attorney about legal advice specific to your situation. Andre Olivie handles immigration cases for same-sex couples.