Ga. high court to weigh case on immigrants and driver's licenses
by Kim Isaza
November 01, 2012 01:01 AM | 6576 views | 18 18 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA — On Monday afternoon, the Georgia Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case out of Gwinnett County in which a Mexican citizen claims the state law requiring driver’s licenses discriminates against illegal immigrants.

Fernando Castillo-Solis also argues that the 287(g) program, which is used in Gwinnett’s jail as well as others, including Cobb’s, allows law-enforcement officers to racially profile.

The state statute at issue regarding driver’s licenses, section 40-5-20, indicates that those charged with driving without a license may not be prosecuted if they get a valid license before their court date.

The Cobb Sheriff’s Office has been trying to get the General Assembly to clarify that statute in recent years. Not surprisingly, the case has drawn ire and praise from Cobb citizens on opposing sides of the illegal-immigration debate.

Castillo-Solis was stopped in Gwinnett County in January 2010 after a police officer determined the registration on the van he was driving was suspended. Prosecutors then charged him with No Valid Driver’s License and Failure to Register Vehicle.

Castillo-Solis filed motions to suppress the evidence and void, or quash, the No License statute as unconstitutional. At a hearing on the motion, the parties agreed that Castillo-Solis is a citizen of Mexico who had been living in Georgia for 10 years.

The state called as a witness an attorney who testified that undocumented immigrants who encounter U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement through the 287(g) program are subject to deportation. She also testified that an undocumented immigrant can be deported for driving without a driver’s license.

The 287(g) program is a joint federal and state program that allows local law enforcement agencies to partner with ICE to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

The Gwinnett court denied Castillo-Solis’s motion, and his appeal is now what the Georgia Supreme Court is considering. The high court has until the end of March to issue its decision in the case.

His lawyer, Arturo Corso, has argued in court documents that as the no-license statute is written, if a license is obtained before a driver charged with that offense goes to trial, “he or she shall not be guilty.”

But as an illegal immigrant, Castillo-Solis is ineligible to get such a license and is thus denied the right to defend his case, Corso argues.

“While there may be legitimate reasons for government to treat undocumented aliens differently than other persons in particular processes such as the voting booth, there is no reason to uniquely deprive them of a fair trial and an absolute defense when they would otherwise be capable of safe driving practices,” he wrote in court documents.

Corso also wrote that if an unscrupulous officer conducts an illegal stop as a pretext to inquire into the motorist’s license status and thus his immigration status, “what judge will ever hear the suppression motion if the motorist is deported by the expedited process known as 287(g)? … It creates an incentive for officers to racially profile and unreasonably stop motorists.”

Gwinnett county’s solicitor-general, Rosanna Szabo, meanwhile, insists in briefs filed with the court that under previous court decisions, “the (no-license) charge can only be dismissed if the person, whatever their legal status, presents proof at trial that he or she actually was validly licensed to drive at the time of the traffic stop.”

Castillo-Solis has no right or standing to challenge the Georgia statute as unconstitutional because he never had a driver’s license, nor did he have a right to a license, prosecutors argue.

Prosecutors also argue that Castillo-Solis has presented no evidence that the goal of section 40-5-20 is the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

In the 2013 session of the General Assembly, Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren intends to again attempt to get Cobb’s members of the General Assembly to revise O.C.G.A. section 40-5-20(a), which as written precludes a finding of guilt if the offender produces a license in court, Cobb Sheriff’s Col. Don Bartlett said.

In legislative fact sheet, Warren notes “it is unlikely that the General Assembly intended this exemption to apply to an offender who failed to obtain a license in the first place” and urged lawmakers to clarify the law.

Rich Pellegrino, a director of Cobb Immigrant Alliance, believes the state is wrong in this case.

“The state has caused any and all safety problems by not allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, as some other states do and which Georgia used to allow before the State decided to target and harass undocumented immigrants. … The State could grant that privilege again if it was really concerned about safety and wanted to stop its discriminatory targeting of this group of good, hardworking, family people.

“Everyone knows that these state laws, and 287G, opens up the door for police officers and Sheriff’s deputies, who are only human and have their own biases, to racially profile. It is difficult to get plaintiffs to complain against both the state and the police about these issues, including racial profiling, especially undocumented immigrants, for fear of retaliation,” Pellegrino told the Journal via email.

D.A. King, of Marietta, president of the Dustin Inman Society, which is named for a Cherokee teen killed in a car accident caused by an illegal immigrant, called the case “a great example of the fact that enforcement works and how a usual suspect, anti-enforcement, tribalist lawyer attempts to subvert laws put in place to protect Georgians from the crime of illegal immigration.”

“Everyone should stand by for the sure-to-come howls that denying illegal aliens a driver’s license is ‘racist’ and enforcing the law even more so. I am guessing that lawyer Corso will not mention that an illegal alien in Mexico has a snowball’s chance of obtaining a Mexican driver’s license or suing against prosecution for driving without one there. … I am proud to have helped former state Senator John Wiles with this law (SB 350) in 2008 and I look forward to watching this particular illegal alien become a focal point for the illegal alien lobby’s endless race-baiting. Who will tell the parents of Dustin Inman that illegal aliens should not be prosecuted for driving without ever having been licensed?”

Supporters of stronger immigration enforcement will host an event this afternoon, ahead of Sunday’s “National Day of Remembrance,” to remember local people who have been killed by illegal immigrants.

The event will be at 2 p.m. today in the south wing of the state capital, on the second floor.

The three victims who will be memorialized are Dustin Inman, 16; Cobb Sheriff’s Deputy Loren Lilly, who was killed in a crash in 2006; and Dominic Malegni, age 5, of Cherokee, who died in a crash in 2004.
Comments
(18)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
anonymous
|
November 02, 2012
For you self-haters out there (that's right--those that target these good people must hate themselves)The legislators and their cohorts who made these laws as an effort to target and harass the very undocumented workers they courted to build the Olympics, harvest its crops and generally save its economic rear end--such hypocrites. This is all just political expediency and pandering to hate--let's call it what it is and what they admit to behind closed doors. They just don't want more brown-skinned people here. The people who helped draft these laws are avowed white supremacists. This is their agenda and they should come out from under their hoods and white robes and be honest like real men instead of hiding behind the "rule of law" like cowards. (That includes the Sheriff.) Sorry to expose you but if you come out of denial the truth shall set you free.
Eagles Glen
|
November 01, 2012
Let the illegal alien pay for their illegal use of land called Georgia.
dustoff
|
November 01, 2012
Deport him and dis-bar his lawyer!!!!
anonymous
|
November 01, 2012
The statute and the 287g program has saved many live of law abiding citiesn and illegal aliens alike. In the case, we many be witnessing the last gasp of the criminal alien lobby. I am sure the entrie nation will benefit from the court ruling against this illegal, criminal, alien.

It is interesting that the paper never mentioned that the Mexican, in being here for ten years, had to have committed numerous federal felonies in order to work and survive. When the criminal Mexican is finally deported, and he will be, Pellegrino should be shipped out with him.
John Bowman
|
November 01, 2012
I cannot believe the state even accepted this idiotic lawsuit, yes the drivers license law discriminates against illegal aliens, they are not US citizens!! This country and it's laws are for US citizens, not invading foreign criminals!!

Total lack of any sense here.
EJ3838
|
November 01, 2012
Why is it that an illegal immigrant has standing to take the government to court but a citizen doesn't have standing to verify the eligibility of the usurper president?
Justin H
|
November 01, 2012
The funny thing is.. Georgia accepts driver's licenses from Mexico as valid. The guy really has no good excuse.. he could go back to Mexico, get a license there, and come back here illegally and would not of been in violation of that law.
Rich Pellegrino
|
November 02, 2012
Sorry Justin...check your facts...GA does not accept Mexican drivers licenses or international drivers licenses any longer in its effort to target and harass the very undocumented workers it courted to build the Olympics, harvest its crops and generally save its economic rear end. This is all just political expediency and pandering to hate--let's call it what it is and what they admit to behind closed doors. They just don't want more brown-skinned people here.
D. Porter
|
November 01, 2012
Illegal aliens are criminals and parasites, one and all. Practically everything they do on U.S. soil is illegal. They need to be ferreted out, rounded up like cattle, punished for their numerous crimes, then booted back to whence they snuck in from with such extreme prejudice that they will never, ever think of violating our sovereignty again. Build a wall and deport 'em all. Enough is enough.
inman family fund
|
November 01, 2012
Woodstock family, the Inmans were rear-ended on fathers day 2000, by a drunk illegal alien. Their 16 year old only son, Dustin was killed instantly, as well as their family dog.

Kathy has been confined to wheelchair for 12 years. She is constantly having surgeries for conditions from the accident. Her last surgery was less than 6 months ago. Her husband Billy works a full time job AND is Kathy's primary caregiver. Through all this, Kathy has remained strong and is an inspiration to many of us.

You can help the Inmans w/ their ongoing doctor bills at any Regions Bank- the Inman Family Fund.

Thank-you

TomTancredo
|
November 02, 2012
Please help this family still suffering physically and financially from this accident.

This illegal was provided with a ton of expensive legal help that none of our citizens can afford. This travesty must stop.
Marie in Marietta
|
November 01, 2012
The illegal aliens scream discrimination when they are captured - but the dead Americans cannot hear them. If crazy Rich is against 287 g, it must be a great program. I remember when DA King was pushing for 287 g in Cobb. Thanks DA! Look for Lib in Cobb to wail against this enforcement method along with almost accurate Kevin Foley.
nailonthehead
|
November 01, 2012
Marie in Marietta...you hit the proverbial nail on the head. And here's a newsflash...Lib in Cobb IS Kevin Foley. He thinks he's so clever!

God Bless Sheriff Neil Warren and D.A. King. God Bless the Inman family. Deport them all...one at a time!!
Pat H
|
November 01, 2012
@Roberto Bummerez - No matter how much money we spend to deport illegal aliens - it is worth every penny. The costs for each illegal and the jackpot babies they produce amount to hundreds of thousands in expenses each year per illegal.

Try these shenanigans in Mexico or any other country for that fact.
B Fair
|
November 01, 2012
An illegal alien should have no rights under the law. Their first act upon entering this country is about breaking the law.
Roberto Bummerez
|
November 01, 2012
Go to a state that will issue drivers licenses to foreigners and then come to Georgia and attempt to get a Georgia drivers license as a new resident. When they deny to do so the you have tried and still have a valid out of state drivers license to use. Then if you get into trouble having a license other than Georgia let an attorney argue that the law is a Catch 22. What ever ou do don't let them run you out of the country because that it what they want. Let the State and County governments waste money defending you and the law in court.
K. Martin
|
November 01, 2012
Roberto "Bum"merez, you are trash. It's insects like you who should be ridden out on a rail along with your illegal-alien compadres. What a waste of space you are.
Ali9999
|
November 01, 2012
FEDERAL law, the Real ID Act, says that a state that issues driver's licenses to illegal aliens will no longer have its licenses accepted for entering federal buildings or boarding aircraft. See how much the Georgia Supreme Court is willing to alienate every single adult citizen in Georgia by making it so they have to carry their passports in order to fly or enter federal buildings.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides