5/4 – ajc – Pro & Con: Should Gov. Deal sign into law Georgia’s immigration bill? | ajc.com

Pro & Con: Should Gov. Deal sign into law Georgia’s immigration bill?  | ajc.com.

Opinion 5:24 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yes.

Arizona-style laws must be enforced in absence of federal action.

By Buddy Carter

Inspired and crafted after similar legislation passed in Arizona a few years ago, HB 87, if signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal as expected, makes our state one of the toughest in the nation in dealing with this national problem.

HB 87 came about as the culmination of a joint House and Senate study committee that met on numerous occasions last year and was charged with studying the social and economic consequences of illegal immigration in Georgia.

The findings of the study committee were staggering, with some estimates of the direct costs to state and local taxpayers running as high as $2.4 billion, burdening every segment of our state government and impacting critical services such as health care, transportation, k-12 education and transportation.

Under HB 87, all businesses in Georgia with more than 10 employees will be required to use the free and easy federal E-Verify system. This accurate, Internet-based database is designed to verify the eligibility to legally work in the U.S. and is already used by more than 16,000 Georgia businesses.

HB 87 also provides new tools for law enforcement to handle immigration issues, such as greater opportunities to prosecute those who knowingly harbor or transport illegal immigrants in our state, or who knowingly entice entrance of illegal immigrants into our state. It also gives law enforcement officers the ability to identify illegal immigrants during the course of an investigation and penalizes government officials who fail to enforce state laws related to immigration.

As expected, many have been critical of HB 87, citing possible economic protests such as boycotts and have called on the governor to veto the measure.

As one who voted for HB 87, I certainly hope and expect that Deal will follow through on his promise to sign the measure so that it will become law.

Voting for HB 87 was both easy and difficult.

Agriculture is still the leading industry in our state and depends heavily on an available workforce. It is a major concern for all Georgians, especially those of us serving in the Legislature.

As our rural legislators so clearly articulated during debate of the bill, there’s only a certain window of opportunity to harvest crops, and you must have personnel to perform those duties. Certainly none of us wants to negatively impact this vital Georgia industry.

We also recognize that we all came from immigrants and that our forefathers came here looking for a better life in this great land of opportunity.

But more importantly, we recognize that our basic responsibility is to follow the law, which is the cornerstone of our free republic. HB 87 moves us in that direction.

Although many may disagree on this issue, most of us agree that this is a federal problem that has been ignored.

Last week, in an interview with an Atlanta television station, President Barack Obama called HB 87 “a mistake” and said we shouldn’t have 50 different immigration laws across the country.

Without a comprehensive federal law dealing with this issue, states are left with no other choice but to deal with it themselves. With HB 87 in Georgia, we’ve done just that.

State Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Savannah, represents coastal Georgia.

No.

Erecting walls is against our common faith and American heritage.

By Joanna M. Adams

Perhaps the most compelling story Jesus ever told was about a man who had been beaten and left for dead on the side of the road.

Several people walked right by him, paying no attention, but then along came a man from Samaria, himself a stranger in the area.

He asked no questions about why the man was in the ditch. He just cleaned the man up, bandaged his wounds and carried him to an inn where he paid for the man’s lodging and promised to come back with more funds if they were needed. To the ones who originally heard the story, Jesus said, “Now you go and do likewise.”

The man in the ditch is not identified in any way. He could have been anybody: friend or foe, an illegal immigrant or an heir of the house of David.

But the Samaritan was not concerned about this. And he certainly did not request to see the man’s papers before offering help.

As our governor and our state consider the signing of legislation that will ostracize many of our immigrant neighbors, we have to ask — is this the way any of us would want to be treated? Is this the “likewise” Jesus reference?

There are many different and complicated reasons for people’s feelings on what should be done on a national or state level about immigration.

So often, those reasons are grounded in our life experiences.

For many of us in Georgia, our background includes a great deal of time in a house of worship and within the hopes of our parents that we would grow up to become empathetic, ethical and caring adults.

The Good Samaritan story teaches all of us a lesson. The person in the ditch was ignored but finally helped by a stranger, without regard for his ancestry.

My faith friends Imam Plemon T. El-Amin of Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, the Rev. Joseph L. Roberts Jr. of Ebenezer Baptist Church and Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman of The Temple and I implore our fellow Georgians to consider the diverse teachings of multiple faiths, which share common ground in helping those who are neighbors or strangers in our communities.

In the Quran, there is a similar notion in Chapter 24, verse 22: “Let not those among you endued with grace and amplitude of means resolve by oath against helping their kinsmen, or those in want, or those who have migrated from their homes in the cause of God. Let them forgive and overlook, do you not wish that God should forgive you? For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

In the Hebrew Bible we read about this idea of welcoming others in Leviticus: “When a stranger dwells among you in your land, do not taunt him. The stranger who dwells with you shall be like a native among you, and you shall love him like yourself, for you were alien in the land of Egypt.”

Today we need to remember these words and their meaning as our governor and our state consider signing into law an immigration bill that will have drastically negative effects on our communities and our economy.

We need to focus on reaching a higher middle ground, not putting up a wall.

The Rev. Joanna M. Adams is a Presbyterian pastor. Also contributing: Imam Plemon T. El-Amin of Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam; the Rev. Joseph L. Roberts, Jr., Ebenezer Baptist Church; and Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman.

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