Musings on Immigration

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Why Is the Georgia Legislature Always Attacking Immigrants?


The Georgia State Legislature’s 2009 session just ended on Friday, and none too soon. Thanks to the efforts of sensible State Senators who truly understand the unwelcoming message that SB 67 (English only driver’s license exams) would have sent to foreign investors in the Georgia economy (e.g. Kia Automotive), we have one less anti-immigration law taking effect later this year.

But, that means several pieces of poorly written, improperly considered, and incredibly costly anti-immigration legislation still did manage to pass through the Georgia Legislature and is headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. Clearly it is time for Governor Perdue to do what is right for Georgia and veto these bills. Now is not the time to kowtow to immigrant bashers and sign these pieces of legislation:

SB 20, which provides that no local government, whether by initiative, referendum, or any other process, shall enact, adopt, implement or enforce any “sanctuary” policy. A Georgia community enacting a “sanctuary” policy? Yeah right–Glad that passed. Georgia is now safe from anyone with compassion towards other human beings.

SB 350, which requires a minimum of two days in jail for the first offense of failing to have a driver license and would create a felony for a fourth conviction within five years. The bill would permit the driver to avoid conviction by producing a Georgia driver license (but not a license from any other jurisdiction). While adversely affecting immigrants, it also affects anyone who cannot get a Georgia driver license. And, this law also fails to recognize the full faith and credit clause of the constitution. More importantly, SB 20 and SB 350, when considered together cause a great problem. If ICE, the federal agency charged with enforcement of immigration laws, decides that they will follow Secretary Napolitano’s plan and only focus on removing criminal aliens, and then ICE does not consider driving without a license a serious criminal violation, what will all these counties do with the hundreds of people they are now detaining at direct cost to the county and NOT the State. What if the County decides it cannot afford to detain all these people? Does the state still withhold the funds? Did anyone at the Capitol even consider this?

HB 2, which penalizes the hundreds of municipal and county governments that have not yet enrolled in the Federal Government’s E-Verify Electronic Employment Verification Program, mandated by SB 529, by withholding Local Assistance Road Program funding. Becuase, after all, the municipalities and counties in Georgia are hiring hundreds of foreign workers–oops, the Bill’s sponsor could not produce evidence of either a single person denied employment by a city or county already enrolled in E-Verify in Georgia, or of a single person who was undocumented who was hired by a Georgia city or county. Sure glad that legislation passed–it clearly solved a major, non-existent problem!

So, the bottom line is this–Why is the Georgia Legislature passing laws that have no real effect? What is causing them to constantly consider bills that attack immigrants, directly or indirectly, and continue to cause Georgia to suffer under the image of a backwoods state struggling to remain in the 60s?

Have hatred and passion against immigrants become so elevated that it has caused the state legislators to spend thousands of hours on a Bills that do nothing but cause foreign nationals to think: “I do not want to live in Georgia.” Is that really the message a State suffering in an economic downturn should be sending? Or is it really simple. Is it that a majority of State Legislators either do not care about the message that is being sent both within and outside the state, or that they actually support the anti-immigrant message these pieces of legislation represent?

What happens when the economy rebounds? Who will build the houses, staff the hotels, and bus the tables? Is this work only for the undocumented? Absolutely not, BUT, as we learned over the last decade of economic growth, the undocumented population fueled tremendous economic growth and allowed Georgia to catapult to being a national leader in growth. Perhaps, the folks at the State Legislature did not consider this; or perhaps they did not care. Perhaps they just dislike immigrants so much, BOTH legal and illegal, that the ramifications of this legislation simply do not matter to them.

Do our State legislators really understand the long-term consequences of NOT encouraging immigration to this State

Do they not know that direct foreign investment in Georgia, AND the people that come with that direct foreign investment, creates and maintains thousands of jobs in our economy. Do they really believe that by making life in Georgia virtually impossible for someone who is “illegal” really will cause such folks to leave? Please tell me that our elected state legislators are really smarter than this.

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