2/22 – 11 Alive News – Immigration Debate Heats Up at Georgia Capitol

http://www.11alive.com/news/politics_govt/story.aspx?storyid=178929

Posted By –  Paul Crawley
Last Updated On:  2/22/2011 7:08:54 PM

ATLANTA — The debate over Arizona-style immigration reform grew even hotter at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday.

“Georgia will not stand for racial profiling,” the ACLU’s Azadeh Shahshahani proclaimed during a rally on the front steps.

She was one of nearly 100 protestors from various civil and Latino rights groups who characterized a variety of immigration bills as an attack on fundamental American values.

“It’s hard to have a serious debate with people that haven’t even read the bill and are completely mischaracterizing it,” said State Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City).

After three committee hearings and several re-writes, he’s still working on HB 87, which would give police the power to check the citizenship status of people they pick up on other crimes. It would also fine governments and private businesses for hiring illegal immigrants.

Bills from other state lawmakers would also deny workers compensation benefits, state college enrollment and require a count of illegal immigrants in all public schools and hospitals.

But opposition isn’t just coming from liberals.

Many Georgia businesses, especially agriculture, are worried about the impact on the state’s work force.

“That’s why the contractors of Georgia are opposing this legislation; that’s why the Georgia Restaurant Association is opposing this legislation,” said State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta).

While lawmakers like Ramsey are catching heat from both sides, he pointed to the public cost of illegal immigration.

“One study estimates as much as $2.4 billion a year,” Rep. Ramsey said. “If we don’t address this issue now, we are completely abdicating our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer resources here in Georgia.”

Ramsey is trying to write his bill to avoid the kind of legal problems that got portions of Arizona’s immigration law thrown out.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who campaigned heavily against illegal immigration last year, is now urging caution in how any new laws are crafted.

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