Georgia passes new immigrant law
Published: Friday, March 18, 2011
Updated: Friday, March 18, 2011 13:03
The Georgia state House passed House Bill 87, the Illegal Immigration and Reform Act of 2011, on Mar. 3. This law, sponsored by Representative Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), has been compared to a similar law Arizona passed last year.
The 113-56 vote includes new provisions for job seekers. Under the new law, presenting false documentation is a felony that may include up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Like the Arizona law, police officers have the authority to validate immigration statuses of individuals when enforcing other laws. For instance, if a violator is pulled over for speeding, and the police have reason to believe that they are not legal, they may check the violator's status. Under the new legislation, those who move or house undocumented immigrants will be tried and punished as well. Transporting seven or fewer undocumented immigrants is a misdemeanor, and may result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or 12 months in prison. Punishments increase if more than one offense is committed.
On her website, State Representative Charlice Byrd said, "The incompetence of the federal government costs Georgia more than $2.4B/per year according to the American Federation for American Immigration Reform. The fiscal burdens created by illegals directly impacts the cornerstone services our state provides its citizens and the level at which they are provided. These services impact education, healthcare and law enforcement/corrections."
Though the law's intent is to prevent undocumented workers from getting tax benefits, the law's mostly Democratic opponents, including the Mexican ambassador, believe that this may lead to racial profiling and keep foreign businesses and tourism out of Georgia.
Many employers already use E-Verify, an optional system that gives employers the ability to check work eligibility. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security operates E-Verify. A mandate to use E-Verify that passed in 2006 applied to only to businesses seeking government contracts.
"When we use E-Verify, it takes minutes and it solves problems down the road, but now, illegal workers can leave us and go get hired by someone else down the road who doesn't verify. We are concerned about losing American jobs because illegal immigrants are taking jobs illegally," Tea Party member Denise Ogio told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"I don't agree with the probable cause section of the law because it will lead to racial profiling. Just because someone is of another race, it does not mean that they are illegal. Where is the line drawn when looking for probable cause and racism?" said Georgia State sophomore Stacy Williams.
"This law is messed up! You can't just look at somebody and say whether or not they're legal or illegal! I know the economy is really bad, but I think that corporate America is looking out for their own. I know that in Mexico corporate businesses have been buying up all their croplands and we're putting all these farmers out of work and we keep telling people to come to America. These people say that we have jobs, but then the people come here to work, and we punish them? It's BS. This law is going to create racial injustice and police will pull over people who they think fit the illegal stereotype, such as Latinos. It will cause chaos. And for what?" said junior Priscilla Stewart.
"I'm for the part about enforcing the law on illegal workers, but not the housing immigrants part. It is too vague," said student Blake Poppell "What if you see a starving person on the street? Would you get into trouble with the law for helping them out?"
"That's wrong because children who are in America illegally don't get a choice as to whether they come here. They'll go to jail and they don't even know what's going on," said student Mari Emory.
"I just think that there are people who are trying to make a better life for themselves and it's a long process to get papers," said student Monique Joseph.
Recently, a Georgia man was sentenced to four years in federal prison. Zhong Liang Li headed a small group that placed ads in Chinese-language newspapers promising driver's licenses to people who did not have proper documents. He then paid a Driver Services examiner to make the licenses, many of which included fake information. Three other men involved received jail time as well.
This law follows a decision made by the Board of Regents last October banning undocumented immigrants from attending six universities in Georgia, including Georgia State.