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Thousands protest new Georgia immigration law

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Police estimate up to 15,000 people turn out for rally
  • Key portions of new law were temporarily blocked
  • Governor says state is dealing with immigration problem
  • Georgia battle is latest in national controversy

(CNN) -- Thousands of people rallied in downtown Atlanta Saturday against a new law that aims to crack down on illegal immigration in Georgia.

Marchers carried signs reading "This is Not My Georgia" and "Brown is Beautiful."

Capitol Police estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 people took part in the rally and march.

The protest was organized by several groups, including the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.

"These people work very, very hard," attendee Gigi Penaflower told CNN affiliate WSB. "They get paid less than the minimum wage; they stay quiet about it because it was their only choice. They come here to work basically. They come here to work."

There were no incidents or arrests. Fifteen people were treated for heat-related issues, according to Gordy Wright, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction Monday temporarily blocking key provisions of HB 87 while allowing other parts to go forward.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash Jr.'s ruling blocks enforcement of two of the most controversial sections of the law.

"State and local law enforcement officers and officials have no authorization to arrest, detain or prosecute anyone based upon sections 7 and 8 of HB 87 while this injunction remains in effect," Thrash ruled.

Those sections would allow police to inquire about immigration status when questioning suspects in certain criminal investigations. They also would punish people who, during the commission of a crime, knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants. Speeding or driving without proper equipment could constitute a crime.

"The apparent legislative intent is to create such a climate of hostility, fear, mistrust and insecurity that all illegal aliens will leave Georgia," Thrash wrote.

State officials vowed to appeal the rulings on sections 7 and 8.

A part of the law that did go into effect is a provision that workers convicted of using fake identification to get jobs could be sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $250,000. The law will also require people applying for public benefits to provide certain types of identification.

The office of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who supports the law, vowed to continue the fight.

"Beyond refusing to help with our state's illegal immigration problem, the federal government is determined to be an obstacle. The state of Georgia narrowly tailored its immigration law to conform with existing federal law and court rulings," said Brian Robinson, the governor's deputy chief of staff for communications. "Georgians can rest assured that this battle doesn't end here."

Teodoro Maus, president of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, said the "moment a person is 'tagged' as "illegal, (it) demerits their dignity as human beings."

The Georgia lawsuit is the latest battle in a nationwide skirmish between state and federal officials over who controls immigration enforcement.

Arizona's controversial law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration catapulted the issue onto the national stage last year, drawing a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice, which argues the law is unconstitutional.

In April, a three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Justice Department and against Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed Arizona's law last year. Brewer announced last month that the state would appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.