Is The Illegal Immigration Issue Back?
By Gary O. Reese
(3-9-09) With the media focus on the progress of transportation legislation, Sunday liquor sales, the ongoing budget cuts and who in the legislature may or may not be paying their income taxes, little coverage has been devoted to another issue: illegal immigration.
The issue was a red-hot and Georgia received international media attention in 2006 when the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act (GSICA) became law. Three years later, local government compliance with mandates in the law dealing with public benefits is reportedly spotty.
Authored by Rep. Tom Rice, House Bill 2 would put teeth in GSICA. It passed out of House Appropriations last week. Rice’s bill would penalize non-compliant municipal and county governments’ by withholding Local Assistance Road Program funding.
A full House floor vote will likely come this week.
Georgia immigration activist D.A. King, who lobbied in favor of the law three years ago, held a news conference in the Capitol on the first day of session to outline the alleged shortcomings of local governments in verifying employment and benefit eligibility required by the law.
According to King, GSICA is merely state law mandating compliance with existing federal immigration law by insuring that jobs and benefits go only to citizens and lawful alien residents. “We are actually debating legislation saying that we will enforce legislation passed three years ago saying that we will obey existing federal immigration law”, King said Sunday.
In 2006, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution labeled GSICA a “responsible” effort by the state to use its limited powers to address the illegal immigration problem.
Opponents of the bill, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), say a down economy is no time to burden local governments with compliance and verification requirements for employment and taxpayer-funded benefits and services. Given the state’s soaring unemployment numbers, the sinking economy and cutbacks in services, it could be interesting to see how legislation that punishes local governments for not doing exactly that fares in the House; and to see who else opposes the enforcement legislation.
Equally interesting will be a watch to see if amendments are offered to exclude illegal aliens from the benefits proposed for job creation in HB 438, authored by Rep. Larry O’Neal. Insiders say that the way the bill is currently written, illegal aliens who currently operate businesses in Georgia could access the tax credits and waivers outlined in the legislation by hiring other illegal aliens.
King, president of the Dustin Inman Society, has promised protest rallies at the Capitol if language is not changed to require use of the federal employment eligibility verification system called “E-Verify” to screen any new employees hired for jobs covered in O’Neal’s legislation. He says only legally resident business owners should receive any of the bill’s benefits.
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