ATLANTA -- The debate over the State of Georgia's attempts to get tougher on illegal immigration is flaring up again.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has filed a motion with the federal appeals court in Atlanta hoping to convince the court to approve a particular, get-tough provision of the state's new immigration law. It's a provision that a three-judge panel of the same court threw out last month.
What the state wants is to make it illegal for anyone to transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing another crime such as human trafficking or drug smuggling.
There is already a federal law against it.
But Georgia wants its own tougher law, and tougher enforcement.
Olens is asking the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear Georgia's arguments for the state law.
His office told 11Alive News he would have no comment while the case is pending.
Charles Kuck, an Atlanta immigration attorney, said Thursday that the state's proposed version of the federal law goes too far.
"The state's trying to say that if you, as an individual, in any way want to help somebody who happens to be undocumented, for example if you were driving somebody to church and you were caught speeding, you could go to prison for a year," Kuck said. "I mean, that's simply not the kind of society that Americans have ever chosen to live in."
But the author of the new law, Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), called Kuck's interpretation silly, a red herring. Ramsey said the state needs to go after law-breakers, period.
"These are people that know they're transporting a person that's in the country illegally -- and doing so in the commission of a crime -- that are often referred to in the media as mules, that are packing up, for profit, hundreds of illegal immigrants and transporting them into the state or country for profit," Ramsey said.
Kuck countered that just the opposite is happening in Georgia -- the feds are deporting more illegal residents than ever -- and he said there's no evidence of large-scale human trafficking into Georgia.
"There is no wrong that they're trying to correct," Kuck said. "The federal government has done an excellent job of enforcing immigration laws, deporting a record number of people each of the past four years."
The law "is not enforced vigilently or diligently" by the feds, Ramsey said. "We've got evidence of a decades-long failure [of the federal government] to enforce the very laws that we're trying to help support and deal with, within the borders of the State of Georgia."
Kuck said Supreme Court rulings have consistently held that "the states simply don't have jurisdiction to legislate an area of immigration law when the federal government has already entered that area, such as here" in this case.
"This isn't just about a provision in our state law dealing with illegal immigrants," Ramsey said. "This is an issue of federalism, of the state's ability to address pressing problems, as our Constitution intended us to have the ability to do. And [Georgia's Attorney General] is taking a stand against what is a further erosion and a further departure from what our founders intended, which is for states to be able to legislatively address problems in a unique manner for their state."
The full appeals court "very rarely" re-hears a case that has already come before a three-judge panel, Kuck said.
The state will know perhaps within a matter of weeks what the court's going to do.