In its final hours, the 2011 General Assembly passed House Bill 87, a crackdown on illegal immigration that mirrors the controversial law passed in Arizona.
Immigration reform has been a hot topic in this state for some time, and for those who favor a get-tough approach, this bill has plenty for them. Among other things, it would allow state and local authorities to arrest illegal immigrants and take them to state and federal jails, and it would punish people who use false identification to get a job in Georgia by fining them up to $250,000 and putting them in prison for up to 15 years.
Proponents of the legislation say such steps are necessary because of the massive amounts of money illegal immigrants cost the state each year in education and health care costs. According to PolitiFact Georgia, there is strong evidence from several sources that this is the case.
Yet, there is also a risk that by enacting such a tough law, Georgia might harm itself economically.
Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, termed the bill “more Big Brother with zero economic benefit” and pointed out that the bill could wind up dissuading migrant laborers from coming to Georgia. For landscapers and farms, that would mean fewer lawns would be cut, fewer crops harvested and less money generated. Restaurants would also feel a labor pinch.
Conventions might also start declining in Georgia, as they did in Arizona, as groups decide they would rather spend their money in a state with less severe immigration laws.
Furthermore, Georgia’s bill could wind up just where much of the Arizona law is right now: stuck in the courts.
While there is little doubt that Georgia needs to find a way to reduce illegal immigration within its borders, House Bill 87 might wind up hurting more than it helps.
— John Parnell for the Editorial Board (email@example.com)