The zeal for immigration reform has spread to Georgia.
On Thursday, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 87 — a bill on immigration reform that resembles Arizona’s immigration reform Senate Bill 1070. In addition, proposed immigration bill, SB 40, is also before the state Senate.
And the two bills have students and professors at the University discussing the hot-button issue of immigration reform.
Charles Kuck, adjunct professor of law and managing partner of Kuck Immigration Partners, said the bills are part of political posturing.
“These bills are nothing more than political gainsmanship,” he said. “It neither reforms nor enforces illegal immigration because that is the responsibility of the federal government.”
Kuck said the passage of bills such as SB 40 or HB 87 would create a bad image for the already immigrant-unfriendly Georgia.
“The only thing it will do is give Georgia another black eye as a state that doesn’t like immigrants,” he said.
He said the bills will make it harder for employers to hire new workers even if they do not use undocumented laborers, will place stress on local governments because of lawsuits and will place police in “an untenable situation where they have to decide if someone is illegal or not.”
However, Jamie Jordan, a junior from Griffin and the chairman of the University’s College Republicans, offered a different perspective on the immigration issue in Georgia.
Jordan said immigration reform would not hurt those who came to the country legally.
“Georgia has the seventh-highest illegal immigrant population in the nation,” he said. “We need reform and we need it now. The ideas found in these bills offer common sense ideas, crack down on illegal immigration in a meaningful way and open the door to reform while bringing no harm to legal immigrants.”
He stressed the importance of strong immigration reform that will not get bogged down in the courts.
“We need to work hard to ensure that whatever bill is passed will not wind up in court with the cost being on the backs on Georgia taxpayers,” Jordan said.
House Bill 87 will allow individuals to file lawsuits against government agencies if they suspect the agencies of permitting the use of undocumented laborers.
In addition to these measures, a person caught knowingly transporting, harboring or shielding illegal immigrants will be charged with a misdemeanor for one to seven undocumented immigrants or a felony for eight of more immigrants.
The bill would also require many private employers to check the immigration status of employees through E-Verify — a free digital federal immigration database.
Encouraging illegal immigrants to enter the state will be a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for further offenses.
“The whole basis is the federal government has done nothing. That’s a lie,” Kuck said. “This administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any other in history.”
The bill before the Senate, SB 40, proposed by Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cumming), is slightly different.
It would require government officials to ensure their employees are not undocumented — including those employed by contractors and subcontractors — and force certain employers to verify the immigrant status of employees through the E-Verify system, with the exception of farmers.
The bill will also give law enforcement officials the authority to check the status of people stopped for criminal activity, including traffic crimes, if there is probably cause in the situation.
Kuck said arguments about illegal immigrants being a burden on social services and the economy are unfounded since there is no evidence for an undocumented resident using welfare.
He said undocumented workers bring in more than $9.4 billion to Georgia’s economy.
Kuck also questions the effects of a mass deportation of the immigrant population from the state of Georgia.
“We want one million people to leave Georgia,” he said. “That’s a ninth of our population. If a ninth left, what will that do to our state?”
Liz Gonzalez, a sophomore from Toccoa who is a political action co-chair for the Hispanic Student Association, said bills such as HB 87 and SB 40 would adversely affect the Hispanic population throughout her home state.
“It would be bad for a lot of the Hispanic community,” she said. “It will reduce more opportunities that they have to embetter themselves in Georgia.”
Gonzalez said reform bills such as these will further cripple those who are trying to make a better life for themselves through hard work .
“America has forgotten that we’re all immigrants who came here to better themselves,” she said. “We are not trying to help those people in any way. We are trying to make their lives worse. A lot of people will be punished.”
HOUSE BILL 87
• Many employers will be required to verify the immigration status of their employees.
• Individuals may be able to file lawsuits against government
officials if they suspect illegal immigration laws are not being enforced.
• People who transport, harbor or shield illegal immigrants will face legal sanctions.
• People who use fake identification to secure a job will be punished.