Georgia House Passes Arizona-style Immigration Bill

An Arizona-style immigration bill passed in the Georgia House by a vote of 112 to 59 last Thursday. Following the passage of the controversial bill, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said he would sign such a bill into law. The passage of such a law would throw Georgia into the center of the national debate over securing the country’s borders.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal – The bill would, among other provisions, allow police to check the immigration status of certain suspects and require many businesses to verify that employees are eligible to work in the country.

Supporters say it would help Georgia root out the state’s undocumented population—estimated at 425,000 by the Pew Hispanic Center—that they believe competes unfairly with legal workers.

Opposition to the measure has been intense. Business groups argue that it would sully the state’s image nationally and discourage employers. They also worry that the employment verification system—requiring employers to check prospective workers’ paperwork against a federal database known as E-Verify—would prove costly and burdensome.

Georgia is one of 30 states considering immigration proposals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Others include Oklahoma, Indiana and South Carolina.

As in many other states across the country, Georgia’s Hispanic population is experiencing dramatic growth, and that’s part of what’s driving lawmakers to act, said Debra Sabia, a political-science professor at Georgia Southern University. That population nearly doubled, to 853,000, in the past decade, according to the 2010 census.

Latino and immigrant rights groups are vowing to call for boycotts of the state, just as they did in response to the law passed in Arizona. The measure also faces likely legal challenges. “We believe this is an unconstitutional measure,” said Azadeh Shahshahani of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter. If it passes, “we will examine all the options,” including litigation.

In Georgia, Rep. Matt Ramsey, the author of the immigration bill, says he was careful to avoid some of the more controversial language in Arizona’s law.

The Arizona measure requires police to check the immigration status of an individual, detained in a lawful stop, who they have a “reasonable suspicion” may be undocumented.

In Mr. Ramsey’s legislation, police may only check the immigration status of suspects who are under investigation for criminal offenses. Moreover, his bill lacks a provision in the Arizona law—one that made it a state crime for non-citizens not to carry their papers—that the judge declared an encroachment on federal authority. “We’re very confident from a constitutional standpoint,” said Mr. Ramsey.

Read the full article here.

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(c) Picture: Georgia Secretary of State

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