Yesterday in a 33 page opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued its ruling on Georgia’s so-called “show-me-your-papers” law. In a decision consistent with the recent ruling from the Supreme Court, this decision upheld the portion of the state law allowing law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of persons being detained for other possible crimes. It is a shame that such a question need even be decided in our courts.
If a person is involved in a crime and also happens to be in the United States illegally, why on earth is there even a question about making such a determination? Of course it is appropriate to be sure someone suspected of another crime is in our country legally. Supporters and detractors of the law have both claimed victory and are now trying to put the decision of the court in the best light in terms of their position. The spin will continue as will the litigation.
The irony about the decision is found in footnote twelve on page 31. The court states, “It is inappropriate for us to assume that the state will disregard its own law, and we therefore reject the argument in this respect, keeping in mind that unconstitutional application of the statute could be challenged in later litigation.” The reason states around the country have begun enacting their own law in this area is because the federal government has done exactly this: disregarding existing law. Time and again state legislatures have stated the reason for enacting their own laws is the lack of enforcement at the federal level.
My interest in this legal jostling is in section seven which the court enjoined. In my view, churches and Christian charities have a great deal to be pleased with this section being placed on hold. Regardless of the immigration status of individuals, many end up seeking assistance from the many churches and charities in our area. Churches and charities have no way of knowing is someone is in the United States legally or if they have been involved in criminal acts prior to seeking charity from one of these organizations.
While seeking to honor our faith by assisting the poor and needy among us, the last thing churches and charities ought to be concerned about is whether or not helping this person or that family may be illegal.
I applaud the Georgia legislature and Governor Deal for their willingness to tackle tough issues but this approach to the controversial issue of illegal immigration in Georgia will not improve the situation here or anywhere else in the country. If someone is in need of food or clothing, they should be fed and clothed. Criminalizing charity based on the immigration status of the people receiving such assistance is simply wrong.
Christopher is a recent graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary of Liberty University where he earned the Master of Religious Education. He also holds a MBA Finance and BS in Business Management degrees. A former resident of Powder Springs, Christopher and his family now reside in Woodstock. Having enthusiastically embraced social media in 2007, he blogs regularly at www.chris-sanchez.com and is very active on both Facebook and Twitter.