By Volkan Topalli

At each stage of the criminal justice system, the proposed Arizona-style legislative initiatives in Georgia represent a substantial and potentially devastating cost to its citizens, and significant unintended consequences for public safety. The new law would require peace officers to attempt to verify a suspect's immigration status when the suspect is unable to provide legal identification.

The proposed legislation stipulates that, “A peace officer shall not consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this [law].” But research demonstrates that it's nearly impossible for individuals to discount attitudes about race when engaging in such tasks. T
Hence, the legislation likely would lead to racial profiling. It would put police officers in a nearly untenable situation, one where they'd be expected to decide not who “looks like” a foreigner (bad enough), but who “looks illegal,” leading to a spate of unnecessary and costly court proceedings when they get it wrong.

Also, the proposed legislation mandates poor policing. Remember, every time a peace officer pulls over or arrests someone because the officer is mandated to determine whether they're illegal, that's time he could be spending looking for or dealing with more serious criminal activity. Despite scandalous anecdotes pitched on radio and TV, academic research reveals that the foreign-born are far less likely to break the law than are average nativeborn citizens -- After all, they fear being unjustly deported or otherwise caught up in the justice system. Also, having local law-enforcement implement this legislation would undoubtedly impair community policing strategies, which would harm law enforcement’s efforts to ensure public safety for all residents. Many law-enforcement officials around the nation strongly oppose this type of legislation. They and many of the citizens they protect prefer to focus scarce public resources on fighting crime and promoting public safety, not on tackling immigration enforcement.

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