3/3/11, "House passes Arizona-style bill aimed at illegal immigration," Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jeremy Redmon
"Georgia’s House followed Arizona’s lead Thursday, convincingly passing stringent new legislation targeting illegal immigrants and those who harbor them here.
By a largely party-line vote of 113-56, the Republican-controlled chamber approved House Bill 87, also called the
- Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.
The 22-page bill now moves to the Senate, where a committee endorsed a similar but shorter measure Wednesday. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal campaigned last year on curbing illegal immigration in Georgia, but he
- has not yet taken a position on the House and Senate bills.
Like the groundbreaking law Arizona enacted last year, HB 87 would authorize state and local police to verify the immigration status of certain suspects. A federal judge halted a similar provision in Arizona last year after the Obama administration argued it is pre-empted by federal law. Arizona is appealing that judge’s decision.
Hundreds of demonstrators -- a loose coalition of black and Latino civil rights groups, labor unions and national groups such as Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union -- gathered outside the state Capitol during the House debate Thursday to denounce the measure as an “Arizona copycat law” and call on Deal to veto it if it comes to his desk....
Supporters of HB 87, meanwhile, argued the state must act because the federal government has failed to adequately seal the borders and enforce the nation’s immigration laws. Georgia has the ninth-largest population among states, but it is home to
- the seventh-largest number of illegal immigrants, estimated at 425,000,
the Pew Hispanic Center said in a report released last month. Critics say illegal immigrants are burdening
- Georgia’s hospitals,
- jails and
- public schools and
taking jobs here amid high unemployment.
“No doubt about it. Our federal government has failed us, and our citizens in Georgia are suffering the consequences,” Republican Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City, the bill’s sponsor, told the House at the start of more than two hours of debate....
- Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said Thursday that the governor's office will closely watch the bill, which he said "still has a ways to go" through the legislative process....
Democrats vigorously fought HB 87 on the House floor Thursday, arguing it would damage Georgia’s agricultural and tourism industries and force the state to defend itself against costly court challenges. Some called it un-American.
Among other things, HB 87 would punish certain people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants here. It would require many private employers to verify their newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. It would empower people to sue local and state government officials who don't enforce existing state laws aimed at illegal immigration. And it would penalize people who "willfully and fraudulently" use fake identification to get a job in Georgia.
Denise Ognio, a tea partyer and accountant who works for a staffing firm in Fayetteville, stressed the need for E-Verify, a free federal program that allows employers to check whether their new hires are eligible to work. She said two older women called the staffing firm to complain about getting W-2 forms showing they owed taxes on jobs they never held.
- Someone else had used their Social Security numbers when applying for work.
“When we use E-Verify, it takes minutes and it solves problems down the road,” Ognio said. “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.”
In a statement published in Catholic newspapers this week, the Catholic bishops of Georgia urged state lawmakers to “resist the imposition of harsh and unnecessary legislation affecting all residents of Georgia, further tearing apart the fabric of our communities and jeopardizing our future.”...Georgia is not alone in its efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. Twenty other states are considering similar Arizona-style legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Such bills have passed at least one legislative chamber in
- Indiana, Kentucky and Utah. At least seven other bills targeting illegal immigration are pending in Georgia’s Legislature.
Supporters of Georgia’s legislation roamed the halls of the Capitol on Thursday. Carol Williams was among them. She drove from her Cumming home to the Capitol to watch the debate and corral lawmakers. She and other tea party activists weren’t content to hear assurances that some members would vote for the bill.
- They marched some down to the House clerk’s office before the chamber convened, asking them to sign on as co-sponsors.
“It’s a symbol of what the heart of America is feeling about immigration,” said Williams, a homemaker. “We are close to a depression, economically. Americans cannot find work.
- We cannot afford the costs of illegal immigration.”...
House Bill 87
- Authorizing state and local police to verify the immigration status of certain suspects.
- Punishing certain people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants.
- Requiring many private employers to verify their newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States.
- Empowering people to sue local and state government officials who don't enforce existing state laws aimed at illegal immigration.
- Penalizing people who "willfully and fraudulently" use fake identification to get a job in Georgia."