It appears that the two Georgia Republican sponsors of the Arizona Copycat Legislation, HB 87, have backed out of an appearance with two Democratic opponents to this job-killing bill on Wednesday, March 23 at the Georgia State University Law School. The focus of this particular debate was to be the cost of HB 87, something these Republicans have refused to acknowledge or discuss. In fact, when I directly asked them this question during my testimony at the Judiciary Committee hearing in the House last month, all I received back were blank stares.
On Wednesday, March 23, 2011, this event was planned:
On Wednesday, March 23, 2011 from 5:30 to 6:45 pm, four lawmakers from the GA General Assembly will come to GSU College of Law for an event entitled "Can Georgia Afford It? The Costs of Passing Immigration Laws at the State Level."**
The event will cover HB 87, also known as the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.” This bill is the subject of much controversy, as it contains many provisions similar to those in Arizona's highly disputed SB 1070 immigration law.
The panel will include Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City); Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna); Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta); and Rep. Pedro “Pete” Marin (D- Duluth). The discussion will be moderated by Prof. Neil Kinkopf of GSU College of Law, with an aim toward providing a balance of information about the legislation.
Suddenly, a few days before the event the two Republican panelists withdrew from the event. The reason these two elected state legislators gave for backing out of their planned appearance (when they knew the date and topic of their appearance far in advance) is odd to say the least. These two legislators said that they wanted to:
"defer this event until a more appropriate time after the legislation is enacted."
Think about it. They do not want to publicly debate a Bill until it becomes law? They even averred that the only place to debate this bill is in the actual "Gold Dome!" These are the same folks who complained about the Healthcare Bill debate in Congress? Can anyone say hypocrite? Public debate by knowledgeable parties is absolutely essential in a free society.
Nonetheless, the debate is cancelled. Some would say these two Republicans simply chickened out--they are afraid to talk about what their bill means to a neutral audience. Others would say that both of them were simply ill-prepared to talk about the most important elements of their bill--how much it will cost the taxpayers of Georgia, and how much damage it will do the State's struggling economy. They both can repeat the half-true mantra of the anti-immigrant groups that illegal immigration costs the state $2.5 billion dollars a year. But neither seem willing to acknowledge that the presence of these undocumented workers AND their families, contributed more than $400 million in direct taxes, and more than $10 billion in economic output. Remove these people from the economy, as Ramsey and Golick want to do, and what happens to our economy as a whole? Broken immigration laws do not mean broken people. If these two really wanted to fix this "problem" they would get on their horses and get to Washington, D.C. and start demanding a fix to our broken immigration system.
Let's face it, HB 87 is an economic nightmare for Georgia. HB 87 will increase city and county taxes, as these entitites struggle to meet their new enforcement obligations. HB 87 will increase business expenses, as tens of thousands of small business have to step through another government run roadblock to hire workers. HB 87 will add millions in enforcement expenses to county law enforcement as they begin pulling people over and arresting folks they do not think are legal because they do not have their "papers" with them. And that is not to mention the impact that HB 87 will have on the Georgia's tourist industry, restaurant industry, manufacturing industry, and economic development industry.
Simply put, Representatives Ramsey and Golick are both ill-prepared to defend HB 87 in a free and open debate, and simply do not have the facts to support their rationale. That is, ultimately, the reason they have cancelled this opportunity for Georgians to see what is really going on at the State Legislature.