5/9 – Peach Pundit – Feds Take Exception To Georgia’s Immigration Reform — Peach Pundit

Feds Take Exception To Georgia’s Immigration Reform — Peach Pundit.

May 9, 2011 13:00 pm
by Charlie

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

The bill which calls for “Arizona style” immigration reforms remains on the desk of Governor Nathan Deal, awaiting his signature or veto. Under Georgia law, the Governor has 40 days from the date the legislature adjourns to sign or veto bills. Any bill the governor doesn’t sign becomes law, so if HB 87 were to be stopped, Governor Deal would have to issue a veto on or before May 24th.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary spoke to the Atlanta Press Club last week and asserted federal opposition to Georgia’s bill from the executive branch, stating that a “state by state approach (to immigration reform) won’t cut it.” Though she declined to specifically address HB 87, her remarks had a very clear target. She did admit, however, that states were acting out of a feeling of frustration that the problem has not been adequately addressed at the national level.

The Governor may be delaying his action waiting for another federal branch of government to weigh in on the issue. Arizona’s bill has been argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Chamber of Commerce vs. Whiting, and a decision is due at any time. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court ruled that the Arizona law did not preempt federal law nor did it violate due process, setting up a potential overturn by the US Supreme court over 9th circuit justices. These judges are usually the ones branded as “activist judges” yet let the Arizona law largely stand.

The U.S. Supreme Court may not provide clear guidance from the Whiting case as to how a similar challenge in Georgia may be handled. Because Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself since she was US Solicitor General when Arizona’s law was passed, it’s entirely possible that a 4-4 decision may result, leaving Arizona’s law in place. With Kagan presumed opposed to these laws and not subject to recuse herself in a Georgia challenge, it is entirely possible that Arizona’s law would stand, yet Georgia’s law could be struck down.

The primary author of HB 87, Representative Matt Ramsey(R-Peachtree City), acknowledged during committee hearings on HB 87 the legal issues arising in Chamber vs Whiting, but the legislative session ended before the Court could rule. More lawsuits have been filed about other aspects of Arizona’s law related to traffic stops and other matters, and the Georgia House and Senate committees spent time trying to craft the bill to withstand a challenge based on immigration checks at traffic stops at the state level. Given that the actual law enforcement organizations that will conduct most stops are at local levels, the question remains if counties and municipalities are prepared to defend challenges that may arise.

With the executive and judicial branches of the federal government engaged on the immigration issue, it should be noted and was alluded to by Secretary Napolitano, that the federal branch which is missing in action is the legislative branch. Legislators on the right are paralyzed by any substantive reform that acknowledges the people currently living and working here as “amnesty”. Those on the left are too quick to offer paths to citizenship while some are hesitant to codify a labor supply that offers cheap wages in competition with organized labor.

While Congress dithers, citizens are demanding action, and states are feeling increasingly pressured to fill the vacuum. Detractors are quick to paint those calling for aggressive state level enforcement as right wing, but it must be noted that even former Democratic Georgia Governor Roy Barnes called for similar measures during his 2010 attempt to regain his office. Demands for immigration reform dominated most of the past election cycle at the state level, and these demands were not limited to Republican primaries.

HB 87 was passed with strong opposition from business and farming interests. These politically powerful groups are not often crossed by legislators who depend on them for full campaign coffers. Threats of a tourism boycott of Georgia have attempted to increase pressure on the Governor. Yet the most clear and concise position statements from the campaign trail were in support of immigration reform along the lines painted by Arizona.

Georgia is clearly treading into an area that virtually all involved acknowledge should be enforced at the federal level. Years of inaction and failure, however, have forced Georgia’s hand. The campaign is over, the bill is written and passed. Barring late breaking news and direction from the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill will most likely be law in Georgia within the next two weeks.

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