Tuesday, February 22, 2011
By Jeremy Redmon
Local school and hospital officials in Georgia would be required to count the number of illegal immigrants they serve each year under legislation a Republican state lawmaker filed this month.
Rep. Josh Clark’s House Bill 296 also would require the state Board of Education to tally the expenditures, by school district, for illegal immigrants in kindergarten through 12th grade. That information would be published on the state board’s website.
Similarly, the legislation would require hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities to report how many of their patients are illegal immigrants, what treatment they received, the cost and dates of that treatment and information on if and how they paid for their care. That information would be published annually on the state Department of Community Health’s website.
“Currently, we as policymakers lack an accurate projection of what illegal immigration is costing our state. With this information, we would have a legitimate argument to require the federal government to fulfill their duty to seal our borders or risk lawsuits from states over actual cost inflicted due to their negligence,” Clark, a Republican from Buford, said Tuesday.
The state Board of Education’s rules, however, prohibit school officials from inquiring about the legal status of students in accordance with the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Plyler v. Doe. That decision said school districts must educate all children regardless of their legal status.
Citing the state Board of Education’s rules, an official with the Georgia School Boards Association questioned the legality of HB 296.
“That would be a new burden, and it would be a troublesome one that could lead to legal challenges that taxpayers would have to pay for,” said Angela Palm, director of policy and legislative services for the association. “We do have serious reservations about it.”
An official from the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia blasted HB 296.
“This is a reprehensible attempt to turn teachers and doctors into immigration agents,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project for the ACLU of Georgia.
Shahshahani made those comments at the end of a news conference outside the state Capitol on Tuesday morning. She and others gathered there to show their opposition to several immigration enforcement-related bills now pending in the Statehouse.
Among those who joined Shahshahani at the news conference were state Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta; state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta; and representatives from the Georgia State Conference NAACP, the Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. Speakers at the news conference said some of the pending legislation could lead to racial profiling and damage the state’s economy.