(by Jeremy Redmon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AJC.com) – Complaining the federal government has failed to secure the nation’s borders, Georgia’s Legislature followed Arizona’s lead Thursday and approved an aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration.
The nation is watching Georgia, which is making the leap into a legal thicket Arizona jumped into last year.
Like Arizona’s laws — which are fighting for survival in federal court — House Bill 87 creates new requirements for many Georgia businesses to ensure new hires are eligible to work in the United States and empowers police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects.
Some business owners worry the crackdown will harm the state’s agricultural, landscaping and restaurant industries, which partly depend on migrant labor. But proponents of tougher immigration laws have long complained illegal immigrants are burdening the state’s public schools, jails and hospitals.
“It’s a great day for Georgia,” said Rep. Matt Ramsey, the Peachtree City Republican who authored the bill. “We think we have done our job that our constituents asked us to do to address the costs and the social consequences that have been visited upon our state by the federal government’s failure to secure our nation’s borders.”
By a 37 to 19 vote, Georgia’s Senate amended and then adopted the bill. The House gave final approval to the legislation less than two hours before the session expired on a 112 to 59 vote. Now the bill goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. The Republican governor campaigned last year on bringing an Arizona-style law to Georgia, but he has yet to take a position on HB 87.
Governor Deal and state lawmakers came under intense pressure in recent weeks from business groups that lobbied against the proposed law.
Other opponents of the legislation, who worry it opens the door for racial profiling by law enforcement, have threatened to help organize economic boycotts targeting Georgia, if Deal signs the bill. Arizona has lost dozens of conventions since it mounted a similar crackdown last year.
Of particular concern to Georgia businesses is a requirement to use the federal E-Verify program. That program helps companies confirm whether their new hires are eligible to work in the United States. Some business owners say it will create red tape that will cost them time and money. …..
Other Georgia business boosters said lawmakers in a final day compromise had addressed some of their concerns. The legislation, for example, now exempts businesses with 10 or fewer employees from the requirement to use E-Verify. It also gives businesses 30 days to correct any “good faith” violations before they face penalties for not complying with the E-Verify requirement. …..
Georgia’s HB 87 would also:
- Empower local and state police to arrest illegal immigrants and transport them to state and federal jails;
- Punish people who use fake identification to get a job in Georgia with up to 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines;
- Penalize people who – while committing another crime — knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants or encourages them to come to Georgia. First-time offenders would face imprisonment for up to 12 months and up to $1,000 in fines;
- Establish a seven-member Immigration Enforcement Review Board to investigate complaints about local and state government officials not enforcing state immigration-related laws;
- Directs the state Agriculture Department to study the possibility of creating Georgia’s own guest worker program. Some Georgia employers have complained the federal government’s guest worker program is too burdensome and expensive.
Georgia is among 30 states that have considered new laws targeting illegal immigration this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In all, 52 such bills have been introduced nationwide. About three quarters of them resemble Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070. So far, 14 of these bills have failed, including measures in Florida, Kentucky and West Virginia. And three have passed, including Georgia’s legislation and two bills in Utah.
Some predict Georgia’s bill will suffer the same fate as Arizona’s law . A federal judge put some of the most controversial provisions in Arizona’s law on hold last year after the Obama administration argued they are preempted by federal law. Arizona appealed that judge’s decision. But a federal appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision this week, keeping much of the law on hold pending the outcome of the federal government’s lawsuit.
Another Arizona law requires many private businesses to use E-Verify. A coalition of businesses and immigrant rights groups is suing to stop that law, arguing it is unconstitutional. The case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ramsey said he worked on more than 16 drafts of the legislation, partly to protect it against court challenges. He said he has looked at similar laws from several states and has benefited from watching Arizona’s legal cases play out in the courts.
Opponents promised Thursday evening they would continue to push Governor Deal to veto the bill. …..
Staff writers Dan Chapman, Arielle Kass, Margaret Newkirk and Chris Quinn contributed to this report.
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit the website at AJC.com.
1. List the requirements that are included in Georgia’s new law on illegal immigration (Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 – House Bill 87).
2. Why did the Georgia legislature pass this law imposing stricter requirements on illegal immigrants?
3. Why are some Georgians opposed to HB 87?
4. Why do the majority of Georgians support HB 87? (see “Background” below the questions.)
5. a) What is E-Verify?
b) What changes regarding E-Verify (requested by businesses) were made to the legislation before it was passed?
6. The majority of Georgians support the newly passed Illegal Immigration law. Re-read the provisions of the law. Considering the fact that the federal government does not uphold the law on illegal immigration, do you think all of the provisions in Georgia’s new law are reasonable? Explain your answer.
A July 2010 poll showed that 68% of Georgia voters support enacting a law on illegal immigration similar to one recently adopted in Arizona.[The law] allows police to inquire about the immigration status of people already stopped for other offenses.
Three-quarters of whites and 63 percent of Hispanics said they would support such a law. Just under half of blacks approved. (from accessnorthgeorgia.com)
- E-Verify is an Internet-based, free program run by the United States government that compares information from an employee’s Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data from U.S. government records.
- If the information matches, that employee is eligible to work in the United States.
- If there’s a mismatch, E-Verify alerts the employer and the employee is allowed to work while he or she resolves the problem; they must contact the appropriate agency to resolve the mismatch within eight federal government work days from the referral date.
- The program is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with Social Security Administration.
- The program has been called inaccurate, though the error rate, currently around 8 percent, is decreasing, as many of the errors came from changing last names after marriage, or not informing the government of changes in citizenship status. (from wikipedia)
For information on the federal government’s E-Verify program, go to: dhs.gov/files/programs/gc_1185221678150.shtm.
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