By Matt Ramsey
In recent weeks, much has been said and written about efforts in the Legislature to enact common-sense state reforms aimed at addressing the issues posed in Georgia by the federal government’s failure to secure our nation’s borders.
One of them is my bill, HB 87, which beefs up enforcement to prevent illegal aliens from getting government benefits and tightens-up what forms of identification can be accepted to receive those benefits. The bill also requires the use of E-Verify by private employers to ensure that job opportunities are protected for those legally eligible to hold them.
Incredibly, the rhetoric being put forth by many opinion writers and special interest groups such as the ACLU fails to ever even acknowledge the devastating social and economic consequences in Georgia resulting from the presence of 425,000 illegal aliens (more than Arizona). The special interests have apparently decided on an opposition strategy based on hysterical and fact-free political scare tactics rather than real debate.
Those who oppose the enforcement of immigration law and support open borders may find the arguments made by opponents of HB 87 compelling. Thankfully, the vast majority of Georgians believe enforcing the rule of law and protecting taxpayer-funded benefits and services for those eligible to receive them, as well as jobs, are critical and necessary goals.
Opponents of HB 87 raise concerns about costs of enforcement, while failing to mention the huge cost borne by taxpayers in subsidizing hundreds of thousands of people in this country in violation of our very liberal immigration laws. One study estimates the total cost to Georgia’s state and local taxpayers is a whopping $2.4 billion per year. The common refrain by the opponents of this legislation that illegal immigration is “solely a federal issue” is patently ridiculous when you consider it is state and local taxpayers who are footing the bill.
Another argument we often hear is that HB 87 will have a detrimental impact on our agriculture industry’s labor pool. This argument is often made without mention of the existing H-2A visa program that provides a legal avenue to import an unlimited number of temporary foreign workers for our ag industry. Beyond that, no one will ever convince me that Georgia’s future economic prosperity depends on those who are in our country illegally.
Perhaps the most misleading rhetoric in this debate has been the attempt to discredit the use of the free, easy and effective employment eligibility verification system known as E-Verify. Statements have been made about the “inaccuracies” inherent in the system. Let me report the facts. Based on FY 2009 data, E-Verify instantly verifies 97.4 percent of all employees as eligible to work. The very small percentage who are not instantly verified are given the right to appeal before an employer can take action. Further, the 16,000 Georgia employers already enrolled in this user-friendly system will tell you it takes a matter of minutes to enroll and adds less than a minute to the hiring process.
Those who rely on illegal labor know that the use of E-Verify will deter illegal employment and they will stop at nothing to prevent its use. Critics of this measure continue to attempt to obscure the simple fact that E-Verify protects jobs for Georgians legally eligible to hold them and that there is absolutely nothing about the use of the program that will prevent a single employer in Georgia, in any industry, from employing a legal work force.
The citizen support for legislation aimed at addressing this issue has been overwhelming, and I encourage Georgians to remain engaged on this critical issue. Georgians should continue to strive to separate fact from fiction. So should many opinion writers.
State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, is an attorney.
NO: Unconstitutional Arizona-style laws are a bonanza to lawyers.
By Charles H. Kuck
From the perspective of a lifelong Republican, I am always troubled when the state Legislature starts looking at ways to “fix” a problem by getting the government more, rather than less, involved in the lives of its citizens. That is absolutely the case with the pending legislation on immigration. A detailed review of HB 87 and its Senate companion, SB 40, reveals that these bills do not reform illegal immigration, nor do they enforce laws related to illegal immigration.
What they do is increase taxes on every resident of Georgia by increasing government regulation, create unfunded mandates for every county and city in Georgia, and create new private rights of action against every Georgia polity, resulting in hundreds of lawsuits that will drain taxpayer coffers and result in little, if any, real change in illegal immigration.
This legislation is popular because it gives the perception that the state is doing something that the federal government purportedly is not — enforcing federal laws on illegal immigration.
The problem with this notion is twofold.
First, the federal government is doing more than it has ever done in enforcing the laws on undocumented immigration. The Obama administration is spending literally billions of taxpayer dollars building fences, hiring border patrol agents, detaining undocumented immigrants and actually deporting 400,000 people last year, a record.
Second, these proposals do not create any greater degree of enforcement than already exists under state and federal law. By Sept. 30, 2013, everyone arrested in Georgia is going to be run through the Secure Communities program, and if they are unlawfully present in the United States, they are being held for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pick up within 48 hours.
Without discussing the deleterious details of this program (DWH — Driving While Hispanic), it has resulted in a record number of cases filling our immigration court dockets.
So, if these bills do not reform immigration, do not effectively increase enforcement, and do not make Georgia safer, what will they do? They will increase taxes on Georgians, force cities and municipalities to hire previously unnecessary personnel, and make litigation lawyers smile.
These proposals have as their main thrust a desire to make Georgia like Arizona. The bill is designed to make it so hard to live as an undocumented immigrant in Georgia, that such immigrants will leave the state. If this bill accomplishes its purpose it could result in the departure of more than 1 million people, along with their tax money, investments, talent and businesses.
There are also at least two provisions that will never be enforced, and which will be struck down as unconstitutional or pre-empted before they even go into effect, for the same reasons that similar provisions in the Arizona bill were struck down. Those dealing with unconstitutional police stops and nondefinitions of reasonable cause beg for a judge to overturn this law.
The authorizing of private lawsuits against government agencies looks like a lawyer’s full employment act, and business-destroying mandates and penalties best dealt with under federal law will simply shut down businesses and cause greater unemployment.
These proposals are bad public policy and bad for Georgia. If our legislators really want to fix the immigration problem they should all take a day and go to Washington, and demand that Congress fix our immigration system, rather than trying to put a Band-Aid on a gaping shotgun wound.
Charles H. Kuck, an immigration attorney, is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Georgia, and a past national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.