Times-Georgian – Immigration bills to push employers

Times-Georgian – Immigration bills to push employers.

Immigration bills to push employers
by Amanda Thomas/Times-Georgian
A proposed law requiring employers across the state to verify the residency status of all new job applicants is one of several immigration bills filed in the House and Senate this week.

While the executive director of Latinos United of Carroll County supports tougher immigration laws, she continues to believe the issue is a federal matter, and not a state one. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act, introduced by Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, will also tighten the process of applying for tax-paid benefits and services. Law officers could also legally check citizenship status during a traffic stop.

Rep. Tim Bearden, R-Villa Rica, is supporting the bill along with Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, who is a co-sponsor. The bill is a culmination of months of work by the Joint House and Senate Committee on Immigration Reform. The legislation requires the use of the federal E-Verify Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.

It creates incentives to encourage local governments to participate in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “Secure Communities” program to help identify and transfer illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. It also creates criminal penalties for any individual who knowingly induce, harbor or transport illegal immigrants. Cooke said as much as $1 billion a year is spent by the state for illegal immigration issues such as incarceration and medical care.

“Obviously with the state being in the shape it is in, that’s huge expense,” Cooke said. “We’re a country based on laws and not of men so we have to enforce the law. The federal government is not doing their job at all so it’s left up to the state to take matters into their own hands and take care of the problem.”

He pointed out that the state already has strong immigration laws.

“This fills some of the gaps and really will enable us to get control of the issue,” Cooke said of the proposed law. “A lot of people don’t realize we have almost as many illegal immigrants as Arizona and we’re not even a border state so this is going to take care of many of those issues and basically allow us to enforce immigration laws. I think it’s a really good bill and Matt Ramsey has worked really hard on it. I was proud to be able to cosponsor it with him.”

Another bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, aims to ban illegal immigrants from collecting worker’s compensation benefits for on the job injuries in Georgia.

“We have collected much research on the subject and have committed ourselves to protecting our resources and our jobs at this time,” said Heath who mentioned a constituent brought the issue to his attention.

Senate Bill 7 would prohibit people from collecting wage loss and medical benefits unless they were in the country legally at the time of their injury. Heath believes the issue “should evoke great concern to everyone who lives, works, pays taxes or is educated in the State of Georgia.”

He wants to make it clear that he has no desire to change the ability of illegal immigrants to get the immediate emergency care hospitals offer to anyone who enters.

“But, responsibly, we should ensure that illegal aliens who receive care at taxpayers’ expense should be returned to their country of origin as soon as they are well enough to do so,” Heath said. “This is an obligation to the taxpayers who must pay for indigent care. If the illegal immigrant receives an injury that is less than an emergency, why should taxpayers be responsible for ongoing care when that person did not follow our laws and took a job that could have gone to a legal alien who did follow our laws or a U.S. citizen?”

Heath said that entering a bill is the beginning of the process, not the end and that they want to hear from all Georgians on this issue.

“I want to make clear that any law making Georgia less attractive to illegal aliens will help reduce the problem by attrition,” he said. “If there are fewer illegal aliens in Georgia, that will save taxpayers money in education, health care and law enforcement. It will save federal tax dollars as well.”

State Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, said their job as lawmakers is to listen to all sides of an issue to develop a deeper understanding of how issues, like illegal immigration, affect

Georgians.

Seabaugh, who represents a portion of Carroll County, said they use those tools to develop policy that serves the best interest of Georgia citizens.

He feels it is important to remember that state programs are for those who are legal citizens of the United States and the state of Georgia. During tough economic times, he believes it is imperative to provide services to those who have contributed “fairly and honestly.” He also expressed the importance of protecting taxpayer dollars.

“I hope to see vital immigration reform passed in order to protect Georgians from the high price we pay for those who come to our country illegally and use our states valuable resources at the cost of hard working citizens,” Seabaugh said.

But LUCC executive director Gyla De La Rosa believes state representatives should be trying to get the ones representing them in Washington to do something about illegal immigration.

“Immigration reform needs to happen now in the United States,” she said. “Representatives and people in the Senate need to get together and have a plan for immigration reform. But regrettably, Democrats and Republicans cannot think alike on many issues.”

De La Rosa pointed out that during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta there was a demand for labor from Mexico to help with construction.

“They requested these people to come here and now they’re trying to get them out simply because they are not of use anymore,” she said. “If I was from Mexico, had three children and was earning $5 a day, I would make that trip to the U.S. where I would be making $5 dollars an hour. I would try will do everything that I can to feed my family.”

But for some families going through the legal process of immigration prove to be difficult.

“It is not easy because our immigration system is broken,” she said.

De La Rosa acknowledged that not every illegal immigrant will be able to get legal status such as those who have a felony on their criminal record.

“We don’t need people who create problems in our county,” she said. “We need people who have the same goals and family values that a lot of people in America have. We want to work, feed our families and we want to see our children go to school.”

De La Rosa does not understand why government representatives cannot agree on the DREAM Act, a congressional proposal to give undocumented students a path to legal residence. She said that illegal immigrants come to the United States to get a good education, leave and then go to work in other countries.

“But if we get the DREAM Act, we’re going to have students who will have a college degree and they’re going to stay in the U.S. because this is their country regardless of the paperwork,” she said. “They feel that they are Americans because they were brought by their parents here. Sometimes they don’t even know or remember the country they come from because they been here since they were little.”

De La Rosa feels it is very detrimental for the country to not allow undocumented students go to college.

“Education is losing, the county is losing and we need to fix that,” she said. “I pray that Republicans and Democrats think about those issues in a humane way and an intelligent way. This is not a battle about who is right. This is a question about what is the right thing to do.”

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One Comment to “Times-Georgian – Immigration bills to push employers”

  1. There is much discussion about the push by states drafting legislation which trumps Federal immigration authority. if we consider current trends, we see the focus of state legislation has been to authorize enforcement of Federal immigration law by embracing states rights to facilitate DEPORTATION of undocumented residents. Since any reasonable legal/political analyst clearly understands the economic value of these undocumented workers (particularly in agricultural states such as Georgia), immigrant strategists should adopt a different approach to advocating the drafting legislation which legalizes these vital human resources on the grounds of facilitating QUEST WORKER programs at the state level. Georgia could make great strides by shedding light on the need for Federal attention to support the economic and human resource needs of states rather than risking the potential for mass exit (in lieu of deportation) of vital agricultural workers… at our own peril.

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