4/13 – ajc.com – Immigration law likely will spark litigation, job losses | ajc.com

Immigration law likely will spark litigation, job losses  | ajc.com.

Opinion 6:09 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Georgia Legislature is seeking to enact immigration legislation that we believe will harm the state’s economy.

The bills the House and Senate are attempting to reconcile contain a provision that authorizes law enforcement officers investigating traffic offenses (among other criminal offenses) to seek to verify the suspect’s immigration status and, if determined to be an “illegal alien,” to place that individual in detention.

The House bill also includes a provision that creates a private cause of action, which would allow residents to sue Georgia state and local government for enforcement of certain immigration-related statutory provisions (with attorney fees being awarded to successful litigants).

The House bill also requires private employers (with more than five employees) to use the federal E-Verify system to check the employment eligibility of new hires. The rewritten version of HB 87 passed this week by the Georgia Senate removed this private employer E-Verify requirement. The Georgia House may or may not agree to this change to HB 87.

It is baffling to us why legislation is being promulgated that drastically will expand government regulation over private business and create additional costs for municipalities in these economic times. We are concerned that the mandated use of E-Verify would impose an undue regulatory burden on private employers, often leading to discrimination in hiring.

We also are concerned about Georgia funding local government enforcement of federal U.S. immigration laws, specifically when local law enforcement officers are not provided adequate training on the complexities of federal U.S. immigration law and when there is no budget for the training and enforcement.

Even if unintentional, such enforcement could result in “foreign”-looking individuals being subjected to heightened scrutiny by local law enforcement officers and to possible mistaken long-term detention.

Finally, as attorneys, we are concerned that the envisioned “citizen suits” will flood the courts of this state with private litigation, placing an added strain on our already overburdened judicial system and governmental agencies at taxpayer expense.

We have no doubt that passage of the described legislation will be as disastrous as similar legislation recently enacted in Arizona.

Foreign direct investment and international trade are critical to Georgia’s economy, as are the jobs created by investment and trade.

Since Arizona enacted its new immigration law, the state has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend the law’s legality. The state has also lost millions in revenues from lost tourism and convention business.

Georgia cannot afford to defend the lawsuits that will inevitably be filed against the state to stop implementation of this legislation, if enacted.

Georgia cannot afford the damage that this legislation will have on our tourism and convention industries.

Georgia cannot afford the loss of business, jobs and investment that necessarily will result from the passage of this legislation.

Teri A. Simmons directs the international and immigration practice group at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, where Stephen Pocalyko also practices law.

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