Archive for February 4th, 2011

February 4, 2011

AJC – Immigration bill’s sponsor revising it with eye on courts  | ajc.com

Immigration bill’s sponsor revising it with eye on courts  | ajc.com

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The author of major legislation targeting illegal immigration in Georgia confirmed Friday that he has already started revising his 17-page bill partly to protect it against potential court challenges.

At a packed hearing in the state Capitol, Rep. Matt Ramsey told the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee that he was already on a 16th draft of House Bill 87, also called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act.

The draft he presented to the panel Friday, however, didn’t delete the bill’s original key provisions, including one that requires police to investigate the immigration status of certain people they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally.

Several committee members, meanwhile, raised tough questions about parts of the bill. They asked about one part that would enable state residents to sue local governments for not complying with certain state laws, including one provision aimed at preventing cities and counties from hiring illegal immigrants.

Committee members said they worry people could file frivolous lawsuits against financially struggling governments. They also asked whether there would be any extra state funding available to cover the cost of additional police expenses that could stem from the bill.

So many people showed up for the committee hearing that officials directed some to other hearing rooms where they could watch the proceedings live on television. The committee is scheduled to resume its hearing on the bill at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, when supporters and opponents are scheduled to speak. The sign-up list for speakers grew to three pages Friday.

The hearing for Ramsey’s bill had not even gotten under way Friday morning before the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to challenge the measure in court.

ACLU officials said the bill and a similar bill in the Senate called SB 40 resemble Arizona laws that were halted by a federal judge last year after the Obama administration challenged their constitutionality.

“The proposed bills are unconstitutional and violate core American values,” Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a prepared statement released early Friday. “The ACLU of Georgia will challenge such racial-profiling legislation if passed in Georgia.”

Ramsey and Republican Sen. Jack Murphy, the author of the Senate bill, have argued their bills are constitutional and include protections against racial profiling.

“This is just the latest example of why the ACLU has become completely marginalized as a tool of extreme left-wing causes,” said Ramsey, a Republican from Peachtree City. “They are out of touch and out of the mainstream and not interested in addressing any of the real problems facing the citizens of our state.”

Similar to one of the Arizona laws halted by the federal judge, Ramsey’s and Murphy’s bills would require state and local police to investigate the immigration status of certain people they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally. They also would authorize police to arrest them if they are in the country illegally and transport them to a federal jail.

The Georgia legislation would also require certain private businesses to use a federal program called E-Verify. That program seeks to verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States.

Rep. Rich Golick, chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee and a co-sponsor of HB 87, said it doesn’t make sense for the ACLU to threaten a suit against the bill now, when it is still being revised. Golick, a Republican from Smyrna, said his panel will review a new draft of the bill when it meets Tuesday.

“I know there will be additional changes that will reflect actual policy changes, certainly in the next draft and definitely by the time we go to a markup,” he said.

February 4, 2011

WXIA TV 11Alive – Big Crowd for Georgia Immigration Bill’s First Hearing – 11Alive.com | WXIA | Atlanta, GA

Big Crowd for Georgia Immigration Bill’s First Hearing – 11Alive.com | WXIA | Atlanta, GA

Posted By –  Paul Crawley

Last Updated On:  2/4/2011 6:37:47 PM

ATLANTA — If you want to know how much interest there is in an Arizona-style illegal immigration law in Georgia, you should have been at Friday’s meeting of the State House Judiciary Committee.

So many people showed up that the committee room quickly filled to overflowing, well beyond the 60 person fire limit.

Extra security was on hand as the crowd spilled over into two other committee rooms to watch the testimony on large computer screens.

HB 87 from State Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) became the first of two illegal immigration bills to have a hearing this session.

The other, SB 40 by State Senator Jack Murphy (R-Cumming), was introduced on Thursday.

Rep. Ramsey defended his bill as necessary because he says the federal government is not doing its job.

He insists lawmakers would be abdicating their duty if they didn’t do something about more than 425,000 illegal immigrants who he claims are siphoning off $2.4 billion in state and local services.

“It’s burdening our schools; it’s burdening our transportation infrastructure; it’s burdening our law enforcement community; it’s burdening our health care system,” he testified.

Because his bill would allow local police to question the citizenship of criminal suspects, the American Civil Liberties Union is already threatening a possible lawsuit.

“If there are provisions that encourage racial profiling, we are committed to challenging the legislation,” said the ACLU’s Azadeh Shahshahsani.

Ramsey said he expects a legal challenge, but he and his supporters think they can win.

“This bill will work, and it will do the job to help Georgians and to help Americans with this illegal alien problem,” said American Legion member Arnie Gieger, who attended the hearing.

Some immigration lawyers, like Charles Kuck, give Ramsey credit for continuing to re-write his bill to try and avoid some of Arizona’s legal problems.

“There’re still many changes that need to be made to make this bill workable in the society in which we live,” Kuck said. “I have no doubt that something’s going to pass out of the legislature.”

With about two more months left in this year’s legislative session, lawmakers say they will continue to work on the bill.

But just about everyone agrees that whatever comes out of the Gold Dome will probably end up in court.

February 4, 2011

GPB Feb. 4, 2011 – Lawmakers Scrutinize Immigration Bill

Lawmakers Scrutinize Immigration Bill.

ATLANTA  —

 

Republican Representative Matt Ramsey fields questions from lawmakers in a crowded committee hearing on his immigration reform bill (photo by Melissa Stiers).

State lawmakers have started combing through proposed illegal immigration reform measures.

A major concern is making sure a Georgia law won’t provoke a federal lawsuit.

Republican Representative Matt Ramsey introduced his immigration bill last week, and it’s already changing to make sure it will withstand a constitutional challenge.

The most contentious of its many provisions is one that lets law enforcement check the status of people arrested for other crimes and hold them until they can prove they’re here legally.

Ramsey says the current bill gets rid of that detainment language.

“We’ve had good advice from a number of attorneys who say that’s something we’d probably lose on a facial challenge, so we’ve made it so the verification process has to occur within the criminal investigation.”

Azadeh Shahshahani with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia says the bill still lets officers check immigration status based on reasonable suspicion and that’s unconstitutional.

“We are concerned that the legislation as presented would authorize and encourage law enforcement to engage in racial profiling and we believe that any legislation that would turn the state into ‘show me your papers’ territory would not withstand a legal challenge.”

Shahshahani likens the Georgia bill to Arizona law which is currently being challenged in federal court.

February 4, 2011

ACLU Of Georgia Urges Lawmakers To Reject Arizona-Style Racial Profiling Bills

State lawmakers should be wary of subjecting Georgia taxpayers to exorbitant litigation costs defending the unconstitutional legislation, says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 4, 2011

Atlanta – The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia today called on state lawmakers to reject bills similar to Arizona’s notorious racial profiling law and vowed to challenge in court any such legislation if it were to go into effect.  The ACLU made the call after Georgia lawmakers including State Representative Matt Ramsey and State Senator Jack Murphy proposed Arizona-style legislation, House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40.

“The proposed bills are unconstitutional and violate core American values,” said Debbie Seagraves, ACLU of Georgia Executive Director.  “The ACLU of Georgia will challenge such racial profiling legislation if passed in Georgia,” said Seagraves.

The bills order law enforcement officers throughout Georgia to use racial profiling as a tool.  Despite language that superficially purports to prohibit enforcement based on race and national origin, in reality, those are the only factors the police can rely on in order to suspect undocumented status.

“The legislation will likely suffer the same fate as key provisions of Arizona’s notorious SB 1070, which were blocked by a federal court,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director.  “Laws that promise to turn the state into “show me your papers” territory would not withstand legal challenge,” said Shahshahani.

State Representative Matt Ramsey’s proposed HB 87 would require state and local law enforcement officials to investigate the immigration status of all individuals they “reasonably suspect” to be undocumented whom they come into contact with in the course of an offense, including traffic offenses.  It would also require private employers to use the flawed E-Verify database and establishes civil sanctions in case of non-compliance.  The bill creates criminal penalties for any individual that encourages an undocumented person to come to Georgia or transports or harbors them once they arrive.  In addition, it would allow any “legal resident” to bring a lawsuit against any Georgia official or agency whom they believe not to be enforcing provisions of the bill.

SB 40, sponsored by State Senator Jack Murphy, mirrors several provisions of HB 87, such as requiring local law enforcement to investigate individuals’ immigration status where there is “reasonable cause” to believe that they may be undocumented, and penalizing certain employers that do not use E-Verify.  SB 40 also orders fines and jail time for certain non-citizens that do not carry and produce a “certificate of registration.”

Both bills authorize state and local law enforcement to detain individuals for an unspecified period of time to determine their status and gives police to power to make warrantless arrests.

HB 87 and SB 40 significantly resemble Arizona’s SB 1070, most importantly in key provisions that were blocked by an Arizona judge the day before the bill was to go into effect last July.  Arizona’s racial profiling law has faced legal opposition from the Department of Justice as well as civil liberties and immigrants’ rights groups.  Defending the unconstitutional law has already cost Arizona taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation fees.

###

 

The purpose of the ACLU of Georgia is to advance the cause of civil liberties in Georgia, with emphasis on the rights of free speech, free press, free assembly, freedom of religion, due process of law and to take all legitimate action in the furtherance of such purposes without political partisanship.

The ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ project is aimed at bringing Georgia and its localities into compliance with international human rights and constitutional standards in treatment of refugee and immigrant communities, including immigrant detainees.

February 4, 2011

GIRRC – Concerns Raised at Georgia Capitol in Regards to How New Laws would effect Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities

Feb. 3 2010 – Atlanta
by Erik Voss

10:30 min – “We have a lot of things to work on. One of our big concerns this year, is how the new immigration laws may impact survivors of domestic and sexual violence who are immigrants.” – Nicole Lesser, Executive Direction of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

11:00 min – Nicole introduces Rosa de-Kelly of Chatholic Charities, who speaks on the potential effects of legislation related to immigration, , such as HB 87, on areas of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

Please review video for details – Transcript not available.

Media Release from the GCADV Follows below.

From: http://www.gcadv.org/funding-changes-cause-concern-for-victims-crisis-centers/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 3, 2011

(Atlanta) Hundreds expressed their concerns to Georgia legislators today over the Governor’s proposal to cut a total of $4.5 million dollars in state funds to domestic violence and sexual assault centers and replace it with less flexible federal funding from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) during the 12th Annual Stop Violence Against Women Day at the State Capitol. Federal TANF restrictions may prevent the use of TANF dollars for services currently supported by state dollars, such as operating costs, and services to single adults without children, who make up an average of thirty-one percent of Georgia’s domestic violence victims served. With Georgia’s current ranking of 10th in the nation for the rate at which men kill women, this funding proposal creates a concern for many, including the Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Nicole Lesser.

“Although the governor has proposed to replace the state funds with TANF funds, this is not a viable solution, due to the changing federal rules and regulations around the use of funds and the overall stability of TANF funds,” she explained.

Congress is in the process of reauthorizing TANF, which means that the requirements tied to these funds may be changing.

“Given the fiscal crisis at the federal level, cuts in Georgia’s total TANF block grant appear to be likely in the coming years. This change could have long-term implications for victims’ ability to access services,” Lesser said.

Additionally, the staffing, reporting and confidentiality requirements needed to quality victims for TANF, present further strain on domestic violence service providers that had to turn away nearly 2,700 victims and their children in 2010 due to lack of space. That same year, domestic violence and sexual assault programs answered nearly 76,000 crisis calls and provided safe housing for 7,544 domestic violence victims and their children.

Despite the concern over funding, engaged citizens, advocates, law enforcement, attorneys, legislators, judges, medical personnel, friends and family of victims, and survivors expressed hope in the ongoing work of changing attitudes that contribute to violence against women. Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Cri$tyle was in attendance to inspire the audience and share her personal story about witnessing domestic violence as a child.

“This is a subject that I can relate to as a former child victim of domestic violence. I think it’s very important for people to support this cause because of how many people are suffering from abuse right next door to us and we don’t have a clue how to help,” Cri$tyle said.

One speaker, immigration attorney, Rosa de-Kelly discussed how all women deserve to live free from violence.

“Immigrant victims bear an additional layer of risk when reporting violence perpetuated against them. The risk of isolation from support systems, inadequate access to language or cultural specific services and the fear of deportation can often be the determining decision for those wishing to flee from violence. The proposed legislation in our state would possibly further limit their choice of safety and could increase their risk of re-victimization or fatality,” de-Kelly explained.

According to the 2009 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Annual Report produced by the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence (GCADV) and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV), one of the most effective ways to reduce fatalities is for the community to get involved and learn ways to detect the warning signs that violence is escalating, explained GCFV Interim Executive Director Greg Loughlin.

“The most dangerous time for a domestic violence victim is when they are in the process of leaving. If you are concerned about someone, invite them to call 1.800.334.2836 to talk to a domestic violence advocate about how they can plan for their safety,” he urged.

####

Media Contact: Susan L. Swain

Phone: 404.209.0280 x. 23

February 4, 2011

AJC – ACLU threatens to sue Georgia over immigration bills; first hearing on bill to get under way

ACLU threatens to sue Georgia over immigration bills; first hearing on bill to get under way  | ajc.com

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The first committee hearing for major legislation targeting illegal immigration in Georgia had not even gotten under way Friday morning before the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to challenge the measure in court.

ACLU officials said House Bill 87 and a similar bill in the Senate called SB 40 resemble Arizona laws that were halted by a federal judge last year after the Obama administration challenged their constitutionality.

The House Judicial Non-Civil Committee is scheduled to take up HB 87 in a committee hearing Friday morning. Committee Chairman Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, predicted the hearing could attract so many speakers that it could stretch into Friday afternoon. He has already scheduled a second hearing for the bill for Tuesday morning.

“The proposed bills are unconstitutional and violate core American values,” Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a prepared statement released early Friday. “The ACLU of Georgia will challenge such racial profiling legislation if passed in Georgia.”

The authors of the bills — Rep. Matt Ramsey and Sen. Jack Murphy — have argued their bills are constitutional and include protections against racial profiling.

“This is just the latest example of why the ACLU has become completely marginalized as a tool of extreme left-wing causes,” said Ramsey, a Republican from Peachtree City. “They are out of touch and out of the mainstream and not interested in addressing any of the real problems facing the citizens of our state.”

Murphy said this week that he likes SB 40’s chances in court and sees indications that an appeals court will reverse much of the judge’s rulings against Arizona.

“I believe that this bill will stand up to federal challenges,” Murphy said, “and when the 9th Circuit Appeals Court hands down its ruling, there will be no need for anyone to challenge Georgia law.”

Similar to one of the Arizona laws halted by the federal judge, Ramsey’s and Murphy’s bills would require state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of certain people they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally. They also would authorize police to arrest them if they are in the country illegally and transport them to a federal jail.

The Georgia legislation would also require certain private businesses to use a federal program called E-Verify. That program seeks to verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States.

Friday’s legislative hearing comes two days after the Mexican ambassador to the United States said some of Georgia’s legislation targeting illegal immigration is “poisoning” the relationship between the two countries. Ambassador ArturoSarukhan suggested such bills also could produce unintended consequences, including racial profiling, human rights violations and damage to the economy.

Golick blasted Sarukhan’s comments in a prepared statement sent to reporters Thursday.

“The arrogance displayed by the Mexican government is absolutely breathtaking,” Golick said. “The Mexican government has inappropriately injected itself into a debate where it has no role, and its suggestion that we are wrong to seek to enforce our laws is an insult to every law-abiding citizen of Georgia.”

February 4, 2011

GPB – Leaders Tackle Immigration Reform

Leaders Tackle Immigration Reform

ATLANTA  —

Governor Nathan Deal says the state needs an immigration reform bill it can use, rather than one for show.

February 4, 2011

News Sweep – Various Immigration Related Stories

Ga. lawmaker files immigration bill
Rome News Tribune
ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia state lawmaker has filed legislation targeting or undocumented worker can be considered a front with a Liberal editorial.

State Bill Requires More Employers to Use E-verify
WABE
ATLANTA, GA (WABE) – State lawmakers have filed several bills dealing with Many of Georgia’s farmworkers are undocumented, and Georgia’s farm lobby is

Mexican ambassador blasts Ga. bills aimed at illegal immigrants
Atlanta Journal Constitution
By Jeremy Redmon The Mexican ambassador to the United States on Wednesday condemned legislation targeting illegal immigration in Georgia,
See all stories on this topic »

 

Ga. lawmaker to discuss illegal immigration bill – WTOC, Savannah
WTOC.com, the Southeast News Leader, news, weather and sports for Savannah, Georgia, the Coastal Empire and South Carolina Lowcountry.
WTOC – News – http://www.wtoc.com/global/category.asp?c=5469

New Ga. bill targets illegal immigrants and government officials
By Keith Savage
A group of Republican state lawmakers filed tough Arizona-style legislation this week that would severely punish government officials who hire illegal.
DAILYSPORTS NEWS TRENDS – http://www.daily-news-trends.com/
Georgia Front Page: Sen. Murphy Files Illegal Immigration Bill
By Georgia Front Page.com
“The purpose of this bill is to restrict the massive influx of illegal immigrants into Georgia. This is about stopping illegal workers from taking Georgia jobs and stopping their financial drain on our education,
Georgia Front Page – http://georgiafrontpage.blogspot.com/
Ledger-Enquirer.com | 02/03/2011 | Ga. lawmaker files immigration bill
A Georgia state lawmaker has filed legislation targeting illegal immigrants in the work force.
Ledger-Enquirer.com: AP State GA – http://http/www.ledger-enquirer.com/251/index.rss
Bill To Target Illegal Immigrant Workers
By myriamlevy
A Georgia lawmaker will file a bill targeting illegal immigrants. The bill would require businesses to use a database to ensure new hires are allowed to work in the United States.
GPB News Feed – http://www.gpb.org/news/feed 

 

 

February 4, 2011

New Ga. bill targets illegal immigrants and government officials who hire them  | ajc.com

New Ga. bill targets illegal immigrants and government officials who hire them  | ajc.com

Georgia Politics 5:54 p.m. Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A group of Republican state lawmakers filed tough Arizona-style legislation this week that would severely punish government officials who hire illegal immigrants and penalize noncitizens who fail to carry certain identification papers.

State Sen. Jack Murphy, of Cumming, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, of Woodstock and several other Republican senators are sponsoring Senate Bill 40. Murphy said his bill is meant to stop illegal immigrants from sapping taxpayer-funded resources — including public schools — and taking jobs away from U.S. citizens.

Some provisions of the bill, however, have raised concerns about their impact on Georgia businesses to compete with those in other states.

The eight-page bill mirrors some parts of Arizona’s aggressive new law as well as legislation Republican lawmakers filed in Georgia’s House last week. Like Georgia’s House Bill 87, Murphy’s bill would require state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of certain people they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally. It also would authorize police to arrest them if they are in the country illegally and transport them to a federal jail.

Critics say those provisions are unconstitutional. The Obama administration sued last year to stop similar provisions in Arizona’s law from taking effect, arguing they are pre-empted by federal law. A federal judge ruled in favor of the White House last year, halting those provisions as well as several others. Arizona is appealing the judge’s decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia on Thursday predicted Murphy’s bill will wind up in court.

Murphy said he likes his bill’s chances in court and sees indications that an appeals court will reverse much of the judge’s rulings against Arizona.

“I believe that this bill will stand up to federal challenges,” Murphy said, “and when the 9th Circuit Appeals Court hands down its ruling, there will be no need for anyone to challenge Georgia law.”

Murphy’s bill would also require certain private employers to start using a federal program called E-Verify after July 1, 2012. The program seeks to verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States.

The bill, however, exempts businesses that participate in certain federal programs that allow foreign workers to legally come to the United States and temporarily work in numerous fields, including the agricultural industry.

Some groups representing Georgia industries — including the Georgia Farm Bureau and Georgia Poultry Federation — said they were still digesting the wide-ranging bill and had no comment. But Michael Hively, chairman of the Vidalia Onion Business Council, said many smaller onion farms in Georgia don’t have the resources to participate in the federal government’s guest worker program, which he said can be expensive. And he worries that requiring E-Verify in Georgia could put onion growers here at a disadvantage against growers in other states.

“Out on a football field I don’t care what players you play as long as we are all playing by the same rules. Then the best team wins,” said Hively, who is the chief operation officer of Glennville-based Bland Farms LLC.

The Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society, which advocates enforcement of U.S. immigration and employment laws, called Murphy’s bill “preposterous,” saying it excludes too many employers from its requirements.

“The bill’s author has excluded so many industries from the badly needed required statewide use of the no-cost federal E-Verify system so as to make it a parody of an employment enforcement bill,” said D.A. King, president of the Dustin Inman Society.

Murphy disagreed with King’s view.

“While I want to restrict the number of illegal immigrants who try to work in Georgia, I do not want to put undue stress on any businesses to do that,” he said.

Murphy’s bill would also:

  • Punish government officials who fail to comply with requirements for the use of E-Verify. Violators could face removal from office and fines up to $10,000.
  • Penalize government contractors and subcontractors who submit false affidavits in attempts to comply with the E-Verify requirements. They could be blocked from getting public contracts for a year and face a $1,000 fine for each day they violate the law.
  • Punish certain noncitizens who don’t carry a form of government identification called a “certificate of registration.” Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $100 and up to 30 days in jail.
February 4, 2011

AJC.com – Mexican ambassador blasts Ga. bills aimed at illegal immigrants  | ajc.com

Mexican ambassador blasts Ga. bills aimed at illegal immigrants  | ajc.com

Georgia Politics 10:23 a.m. Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Mexican ambassador to the United States on Wednesday condemned legislation targeting illegal immigration in Georgia, saying it is “poisoning” the relationship between the two countries.

Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan suggested such bills also could produce unintended consequences, including racial profiling, human rights violations and damage to the economy.

He argued Mexican immigrants cross the border for jobs, not to give birth or take advantage of U.S. hospitals and schools. Meanwhile, he spoke against a congressional effort to deny automatic U.S. citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, calling the measure a “red herring.”

Sarukhan met with AJC reporters and editors just two days before tough Arizona-style legislation aimed at illegal immigrants is scheduled to get its first hearing in Georgia. Also on Wednesday, state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, filed new legislation meant to block employers from hiring illegal immigrants.

In an hourlong interview, Sarukhan underscored longstanding business ties between Mexico and Georgia, robust trade between his country and the United States and the cooperation that is needed between the two countries to cut persistent drug violence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

At times, the career diplomat spoke forcefully about Georgia and other states’ attempts to crack down on illegal immigration.

Some Georgia lawmakers say the state needs to take action because the federal government has failed to secure the nation’s borders. Critics, however, have warned that some of Georgia’s legislation could harm the state’s economy, particularly its $65 billion agricultural industry, which relies heavily on migrant labor. Sarukhan alluded to the importance of that industry several times Wednesday.

“Some of these initiatives are poisoning the wellspring of the bonds that tie our two countries together,” Sarukhan said in response to questions about Georgia’s bills. “What our citizens on both sides of the border need to understand is that getting this equation right could be one of the most powerful tools for job creation, economic growth and North American competitiveness in the next decade.”

Sarukhan singled out Georgia’s SB7, a bill aimed at stopping illegal immigrants from collecting workers’ compensation benefits for on-the-job injuries. He said the bill violates “any and all international conventions on labor rights and human rights.”

“In this state, in this city — the cradle of the civil rights movement — to see a bill like this enacted and passed I think would be extremely troubling,” he said.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Bill Heath, issued a statement in response to the ambassador’s comments.

“I do not believe this bill violates any labor rights or human rights,” Heath said. “This bill is aimed at lawbreaking people who cannot legally work in the United States. It is an incongruity that people who are not legally allowed to work here still receive benefits that are aimed toward people who are working legally.”

Sarukhan also criticized HB87, which is scheduled to have its first hearing before the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Friday. The bill would require state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of certain people they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally.

“We are concerned that some of this local or state legislation could lead down a slippery slope of racial profiling,” Sarukhan said.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Matt Ramsey, said his legislation includes protections against racial profiling. Ramsey also cited a report released this week by the Pew Hispanic Center that estimated there are 425,000 illegal immigrants in Georgia.

“With respect to the state of Georgia and our local governments, I think he is flat wrong,” Ramsey said of Sarukhan.

Illegal immigration, he said, “is an extreme burden on our educational system, on our social services, on our transportation infrastructure, on our law enforcement community.”

The Pew Hispanic Center report cited a drop in illegal immigrants from Mexico. Last year, an estimated 6.5 million illegal immigrants from Mexico were in the United States, which is down from 7 million in 2007, the report said. Sarukhan attributed the drop to the recession.

“For someone who profoundly disagrees with the urban myth that they are coming here to ‘drop babies’ and take and abuse health and education services,” Sarukhan said, “those numbers reflect one powerful truth — immigrants come in search of a job. If there are not jobs to be had, they don’t come. Period.”

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