Archive for ‘Legislative’

March 6, 2012

3/6/-2012 – Global Atlanta – Convention Cancels Atlanta Venue Due to Immigration Law

Convention Cancels Atlanta Venue Due to Immigration Law

A national research association decided to move its 2013 annual convention out of Atlanta because it feared that international visitors and U.S. citizens of color among the 14,000-plus attendees might feel unwelcome due to the state’s immigration enforcement law, according to the executive director.

Read more at link: Convention Cancels Atlanta Venue Due to Immigration Law

March 6, 2012

3/6/2012 – CL Atlanta – Anti-immigrant student bill passes Senate

Anti-immigrant student bill passes Senate | Atlanta News & Opinion Blog | Fresh Loaf | Creative Loafing Atlanta.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Anti-immigrant student bill passes Senate

Posted by Joeff Davis on Tue, Mar 6, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Sen. Nan Orrock speaking at a rally last week in front of the capitol in support of undocumented students.

  • Joeff Davis
  • Sen. Nan Orrock speaking at a rally last week in front of the capitol in support of undocumented students.

The state Senate yesterday voted to pass Senate Bill 458, which would prevent undocumented students from attending any of Georgia’s 60 public colleges. Laws are on the books that already stop undocumented students from attending any colleges with a competitive application process (includes the top five state schools), as well as making the undocumented students — many of whom have spent most of their lives in Georgia — pay out-of-state tuition. The state estimates that one tenth of one percent of students in the system are undocumented or roughly 300 out of about about 318,000 students.

Chancellor Hank Huckaby of the University System of Georgia came out against the law in his testimony Feb. 22 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying “I believe our current policy addresses the concerns some of you have that the System should ensure that all undocumented students pay out-of-state tuition, that no Georgians should be denied a seat in college if they were academically qualified because of an undocumented student, and that educating undocumented students would not cost Georgia taxpayers.”

Huckaby added: “Graduating more students is a key goal of the System as we work to help Georgia prosper. Even for those who are here through no fault of their own, it makes sense to me that we should educate them to the highest level possible. It helps our state economically, culturally, and educationally.”

Despite his testimony, the Senate voted 34-19 in favor of the bill, largely along party lines. No Democrats voted for it.

Yvony Diaz, 19, who moved to Georgia when he was 8 years old, said he was saddened by the vote, but held out hope that the bill could still be defeated. Diaz was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was two months old and graduated from Chattahoochee High School in 2010.

“When SB 458 was passed on Monday, it made me feel under attack,” he wrote in an e-mail to CL. “It’s making me think that my dream of attending college here in Georgia is fading away. But I can’t think like that. I know we’re in the right side of history and justice is not being served.”

He said he’d move to another state if the bill passes before he’d consider returning to Mexico, adding that he speaks only a little Spanish.

The bill next moves to the House.

March 6, 2012

March 6th, 2012 – Democracy Now! – Freedom University: Undocumented College Students in Georgia Forced to Attend Underground School

Freedom University: Undocumented College Students in Georgia Forced to Attend Underground School


As Georgia votes in its Super Tuesday primary, the State Senate has voted to ban undocumented immigrant students from all public universities. Undocumented students from Georgia are already barred from the state’s five most competitive schools and must pay out-of-state tuition at other state schools. “Telling us that we cannot obtain higher education, that we cannot go to college or community college, even if we work hard and do our best in school, it is crushing dreams, it is crushing goals,” says Keish Kim, an undocumented student from South Korea who now attends Freedom University, an ad hoc underground school in Athens, Georgia, where university professors volunteer to teach undocumented students kept out of public classrooms. We also speak with Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia. [includes rush transcript]

November 20, 2011

11/19/2011 – Crowd calls for closing of Stewart Detention Center; two arrested | 11/19/2011 | Crowd calls for closing of Stewart Detention Center; two arrested.


Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011


— A season of protest in Georgia continued Friday in front of a federal immigration detention center here, as a crowd of 270 people called for the closing of the Stewart Detention Center.

The fifth annual protest, which included two arrests, sought to highlight what demonstrators claim are inhumane conditions inside the facility, as well as the plight of the inmates’ families on the outside.

“We’re here to fight for the justice of immigrants and those who are detained in Stewart,” said Arely Lara, 13, of Dalton, Ga., who said her father was held here before being deported to Mexico.

Activists marched more than a mile uphill from downtown Lumpkin to the entrance of the detention center, where they held vigil and celebrated the release of one inmate, Pedro Guzman, who was behind bars here this time a year ago.

“This place breaks you,” he said, assailing the conditions inside the detention center. “It’s basically made to break your soul.”

Guzman was joined by his family, who described the impact his incarceration had on their lives several hours away in North Carolina.

“Most do not fight because the system is not set up for justice,” said Guzman’s wife, Emily, who is five months pregnant. “It is set up to get as many immigrants out of the country as possible. Pedro is free, but so many are not.”

Prison officials have denied the claims made by the protesters. Stewart Detention Center is run by Corrections Corporation of America , the country’s largest private corrections company. “We’re mystified why these individuals would want to protest a company that saves taxpayers millions, provides safe, humane housing for detainees and helps keep communities safe,” said Steve Owen, a company spokesman.

The cold air was filled Friday with echoes of other activist movements of recent weeks. One woman wore a pin in remembrance of Troy Anthony Davis, the Georgia prisoner executed in September amid an international uproar prompted by his claims of innocence.

Others were affiliated with the Occupy movement and the SOA Watch protest taking place this weekend in Columbus.

The size of the crowd more than doubled from last year’s event when eight protesters were arrested for crossing onto the prison grounds, said Anton Flores-Maisonet of Georgia Detention Watch. One demonstrator, Chris Spicer of Chicago, was arrested Friday afternoon and charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal trespassing.

“I want to cross because we are crossing a river of love with no fear for you,” Spicer told the crowd before ducking under a yellow strip of police tape and being handcuffed.

Spicer was released this year from federal prison after serving time for trespassing onto Fort Benning at the 2010 SOA Watch protest. Flores-Maisonet, who emceed the event, was briefly taken into custody after the crowd dispersed, accused of crossing onto prison grounds when he took Spicer’s jacket.

Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones said authorities reviewed news media footage of the event and determined Flores-Maisonet was not in violation.

“We replayed the video and got that corrected,” Jones said, referring to Magistrate Judge G. Wayne Ammons’ dismissal of the charge. “The video cleared him.”

Flores-Maisonet, who was arrested for an act of civil disobedience at last year’s event, said the authorities took “a much more aggressive stance this year,” noting protesters last year were released on $250 bond, while Spicer’s bond was set Friday at $5,000.

“Rather than trying to obstruct justice,” he said, “we’re trying to obstruct injustice.”

Speakers at the protest urged the crowd to resist recent efforts by state legislators to crack down on illegal immigration. Xochitl Bervera of the Georgia Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition said federal authorities and state legislators in Alabama and Georgia “have already lost” because a growing number of people are speaking out against the incarceration of undocumented immigrants.

“You’re on your way out,” Bervera said. “A new day is coming, and we can see the sun rising over the horizon as we speak.”

Participants waved banners bearing slogans like “Brown is not a crime” and “No human being is illegal.”

A number of activists from Columbus made the 45-minute drive to join in the march. Others, like Scott M. Woods, came all the way from Phoenix, a city embroiled in its own debate over immigration.

Woods said there should be “a better way of dealing with the situation” than detention and deportation, such as more opportunities for immigrants to gain citizenship.

“I don’t believe that migrants should be incarcerated,” said Woods, who came to town for the annual SOA Watch protest in Columbus. “There are a lot of jobs that they’ll do and nobody else will.”

Lumpkin Police Chief Ronald Jackson said the event was peaceful as usual. The only change, he said, was that the crowd was asked to stay off the courthouse lawn because it just received new grass.

“We don’t have any trouble with them — anything we ask them to do they comply,” Jackson said. “Each year you can look and see it getting larger and larger, so I reckon they’re getting their message out.”

Read more:

November 9, 2011

11/8 – – State immigration law beset with gaps, confusion |

State immigration law beset with gaps, confusion  |

Breaking News

Penn State ousts football coach Joe Paterno

Georgia Politics 4:43 a.m. Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A key part of the Georgia law that cracks down on illegal immigration is fraught with gaps and confusing to businesses expected to comply with it, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found.

At issue is a 2007 state law that requires certain government contractors and subcontractors to use a federal work authorization program called E-Verify. The free online program helps businesses confirm whether their newly hired employees are eligible to work in the U.S.

Supporters say the program will help block illegal immigrants from taking jobs from U.S. citizens; critics say that while the program is free, it costs them time and money to utilize. Unknown is how many public contractors required to use E-Verify are doing so. The reason: Some government agencies aren’t checking.

The Legislature revised Georgia’s law last year, hoping to ensure compliance. The law said the state Labor Department would conduct at least 100 random audits of local governments and their contractors, but only if labor officials had the money.

Labor Department spokesman Sam Hall confirmed his agency hasn’t done any such audits because it hasn’t received any state or federal funding. The agency sent the U.S. Labor Department a funding request in January, but still has not received a response, Hall said.

“If we don’t [get a response] by the end of the year, we will resend it again, and we will continue to resend it until we get some response,” Hall said.

This year, Georgia legislators revised the law once more, seeking to toughen it. It now calls for the Audits and Accounts Department to conduct annual audits beginning next year — as long as it has the funding.

The state Legislature has not set aside any money for these audits or asked the department “to provide any budget projections relative to that activity,” State Auditor Russell Hinton said.

At the same time, Georgia is preparing to greatly expand the number of businesses that must use E-Verify. Under a new measure Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law in May, businesses with 11 or more employees must use the federal program, regardless of whether they have government contracts. The requirement will be phased in beginning Jan. 1, based on each company’s number of employees.

Steve Ramey of the Founding Fathers Tea Party Patriots said government officials should do even more to ensure compliance with the law and to make sure taxpayers aren’t on the hook for costs associated with illegal immigrants.

“I would certainly like to see a more effective way of monitoring and intensified checks,” Ramey said. “The answer is to vote out the incumbents and find responsible replacements that care what happens to the Georgia citizen worker.”

State Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, one of the E-Verify law’s chief supporters, said lawmakers will seek funding for the audits. But he indicated that will be a difficult task given the tough economy and the state’s lean finances.

“We are going to make every effort we can to secure funding,” he said.

State law does not require cities and counties to audit their contractors. Officials from Cobb and DeKalb counties and Atlanta don’t do these checks; they rely on employers’ signed affidavits that say the employers are registered to use E-Verify, and promise to use it throughout their government contracts.

Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee said county officials have talked about doing audits but “[We] simply don’t have the resources to move forward on that right now.”

Fulton and Gwinnett counties audit their contractors. Six of 12 companies randomly audited by Gwinnett over the past two years failed to verify the legal status of their workers according to federal guidelines.

Among them was Norcross-based Tristar of America, a contractor that used five illegal workers to demolish the famed “Gwinnett is Great” and “Success Lives Here” water towers along I-85. The company had won the $149,000 contract to demolish the towers and other county water facilities. Although the contract began on March 31 last year, the audit found Tristar did not verify the eligibility of 18 new hires until Aug. 31 last year — after it received notice of the audit.

Of the 18 Tristar employees checked, five were not authorized to work in the U.S., according to the audit. Two already had been terminated, while three others lost their jobs on Aug. 31 last year. The county terminated the contract.

The audit report found Tristar didn’t participate in the E-Verify program as required by state law. After Gwinnett ended the contract, which was nearly complete, it found another firm to finish the work. Under Gwinnett’s purchasing ordinance, Tristar lost its eligibility to bid on another county contract for one year.

A Tristar official said the company was not aware it was required to use E-Verify and suggested state and local government agencies should do more to educate businesses about the requirement. Tristar said the unauthorized workers provided phony documents and were fired as soon as the company learned of the audit.

“Tristar never intended to evade the law,” Allison Hughes, Tristar’s operations/office manager, said in an email. “Once Tristar learned of the requirement it immediately came into compliance and it now uses E-Verify as required by the statute. Had the state and local governments performed even basic awareness or training about the program then the issue with unauthorized workers would never have arisen.”

Gwinnett’s audits found five other contractors did not verify the eligibility of their workers within three days, per federal guidelines. None of the firms employed unauthorized workers. The companies were allowed to keep their contracts because they didn’t violate any law.

Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the audits are a valuable deterrent, but Gwinnett has limited resources for them, and the E-Verify audits are a small part of the staff’s workload. Gwinnett’s four-person performance analysis staff randomly chooses about half-dozen contracts each year to review.

“We believe we’re doing what we need to do to be in compliance with the law,” Nash said. “Not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law.”

Tristar officials are not alone in experiencing difficulties with the law.

Of 95 proposals businesses submitted for new concessions at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this year, 34 ran into trouble with the law. Some businessmen failed to include key information on the sworn affidavits that confirm they are authorized to use E-Verify, public records show. Others didn’t submit the affidavits as required. The city started the process over again, partly because of these errors.

“I just don’t think the vendor community realized how serious this form is,” said Adam Smith, the city’s chief procurement officer. “And that it is a state-mandated form.”

How we got the story

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed state and local government officials, and reviewed state laws, Gwinnett County audits and documents concerning Atlanta’s requests for proposals for airport concessions.

How it works

State law requires companies that do business with public agencies to use E-Verify to ensure newly hired employees are eligible to work in the U.S. Operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration, the online system uses employee names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and other information to confirm employees can legally work here.

November 2, 2011

11/1 – – Mexican senators seek meeting with Georgia lawmakers over immigration |

Mexican senators seek meeting with Georgia lawmakers over immigration  |


Georgia Politics 6:16 p.m. Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

WASHINGTON — A group of Mexican senators announced Tuesday they are preparing to meet with state legislators in Georgia and four other states next month, hoping to head off more stringent immigration laws like the one Georgia enacted this year.

The senators plan to share information with state lawmakers that shows illegal immigrants generally stay out of trouble and contribute to the economy while they are here.Sen. Carlos Jimenez Macias, a member of the Mexican Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, confirmed those plans Tuesday at a workshop on immigration reform in D.C. at the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan public policy institution.

Macias said the author of Georgia’s House Bill 87 — Republican state Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City — is among the legislators he and his delegation want to meet next month.

The Mexican senators also plan to meet with state lawmakers in Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina and Utah, which have enacted similar immigration enforcement measures.

For Macias, the issue is personal. He said he illegally entered the United States when he was 17 to find work and lived for a time in Chicago.

“I know what the illegal immigrants feel here in the United States,” he said.

Ramsey said Tuesday he had not received a request to meet with Macias.

“However, I would welcome the opportunity to meet and hear their concerns and share with them our concerns that motivated us to draft legislation aimed at addressing the issues posed in Georgia by illegal immigration,” Ramsey said.

Macias’ announcement comes after the Mexican ambassador to the United States condemned an early draft of HB 87 in February, saying it was “poisoning” the relationship between the two countries. The Mexican government filed court papers in June in support of efforts to halt HB 87.

Supporters of HB 87 complain illegal immigrants are straining taxpayer-funded resources in Georgia, including schools and prisons. HB 87 seeks to deter illegal immigrants from coming to Georgia by cutting off their access to jobs and public benefits. A federal judge in Atlanta put parts of the law on hold in June amid court challenges. The state is appealing.

Another Mexican senator, Ruben Velazquez Lopez, said he didn’t want to see the “problem of anti-immigrant laws” to be “Mexicanized.”

“This is something that affects all the illegals in the United States,” he said. “And they are from many nations. Not all. But certainly many. Our fellow countrymen are part of the total.”

October 28, 2011

10/28 – Daily Report – Immigration laws harm students – Daily Report

Immigration laws harm students – Daily Report.

Friday, October 28, 2011
Immigration laws harm students

Alabama law seeking children’s status rejected by 11th Circuit, but danger to school access persists

(File photo)
Daniel Altschuler has written extensively on immigration politics and holds a doctorate in politics from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.
(Zachary D. Porter)
Azadeh Shahshahani is the director for the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
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True or false: No child in this country can be denied a public education.The answer is true, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision, which held that schools could not exclude children based on their immigration status. This is settled law, but not for Alabama legislators, who passed an anti-immigrant law (HB 56) with a provision requiring elementary and secondary schools to determine students’ and parents’ citizenship status. With a federal district court refusing to enjoin this provision, families with an undocumented family member are already keeping their children, including U.S. citizens, out of school. Though an appellate court this month temporarily blocked the K-12 reporting requirement, the right to primary education access for all in our country remains in jeopardy.This summer, civil and immigrant rights groups, religious institutions, and the Department of Justice challenged HB 56 in federal court. Alabama’s law contains many troubling provisions found in anti-immigrant laws in other states, such as Arizona and Georgia, which were blocked by federal courts. But it goes much further, including the requirement in Section 28 that K-12 school officials track immigration status. The court allowed this section of the law to stand.As with Georgia’s HB 87, proponents of HB 56 claim they are removing the drain on state resources. But, in truth, officials like Gov. Robert Bentley are scapegoating immigrants for political gain at a time of economic insecurity. They have confessed their desire to expel undocumented immigrants from the state. HB 56 sponsor Mickey Hammon asserted, “This [bill] attacks every aspect of an illegal immigrant’s life. … [T]his bill is designed to make it difficult for them to live here so they will deport themselves.” The law is so extreme that Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, concluded that Alabama’s “draconian initiative is so oppressive that Bull Connor himself would be impressed.” Birmingham’s former sheriff, you may recall, once used attack dogs and fire hoses on African-American children.Even those skeptical of immigration’s well-documented economic benefits should be appalled by Alabama officials’ willingness to target children. In addition to violating the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, Section 28 is morally repugnant. It uses state power to keep immigrant children, who bear no responsibility for their status, out of school. Moreover, while so many Alabama public schools are failing, the law unconscionably redirects scarce education resources toward immigration policing. Finally, as the court held in Plyler, “It is difficult to understand precisely what the State hopes to achieve by promoting the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime.”Sadly, HB 56 may reflect a larger national trend. In May, the Department of Justice issued a memo re-affirming the illegality of asking students about their immigration status. This followed illegal reporting requirements and efforts in other states to pass education provisions similar to HB 56. Recent reports by the American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, found that roughly 20 percent of New York and New Jersey public school districts requested information from students that would indicate their immigration status. Similar practices abound in Arizona, where fully half of school districts surveyed by the ACLU sought such information. The Department of Justice was right to issue its memo, but, in the wake of HB 56’s passage, it must be even more vigilant about illegal school reporting policies, which may rise as restrictionist officials seek to copy HB 56.It is encouraging that the appellate court temporarily blocked the education provision of HB 56. But beating Section 28 in court, while essential, will not by itself ensure that all American children can go to school without fear. Legislators and education officials around the country must take heed: our classrooms are no place for the refrain, “Papers, please.”

Daniel Altschuler and Azadeh Shahshahani, Special to the Daily Report

October 23, 2011

10/23 – Online Athens – Lawyers say immigration law hurts state’s economy | Athens Banner Herald Mobile

Lawyers say immigration law hurts state’s economy | Athens Banner Herald Mobile.

Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011


State and federal immigration laws are making it hard for international companies to do business in Georgia, a panel of legal experts said Saturday at the University of Georgia.

“We literally have companies saying ‘I don’t want to do business in this
state,’ ” Atlanta immigration lawyer Sharon Cook Poorak said.

A UGA law school symposium Saturday included a discussion on the impact of House Bill 87, the new state immigration law that is among the most strict in the nation.

The law affects not only migrant farm workers in South Georgia, but also millionaire European CEOs who want to do business in the U.S., panelists said.

“Georgia is really shooting themselves in the foot right now, to pass these laws that hurt us economically,” Poorak said.

She noted that the state’s unemployment rate is still above 10 percent since the law took effect in July, so jobs held by illegal immigrants aren’t being filled by Americans.

It’s impossible for unskilled workers like dishwashers to immigrate legally because they can’t get visas, said another immigration lawyer, Teri Simmons.

And visas for skilled workers like scientists are hard to get, she said.

“America has one of the toughest, strictest immigration systems in the entire world,” Simmons said.

In addition to discouraging corporations from coming to Georgia, apartments are sitting vacant and small businesses are closing up shop, immigration lawyer Carolina Antonini said.

Her clients are reluctant to go to the hospital if they’re sick or call the police if they’re victims of crime because they fear being deported, she said.

“We’re seeing people flee the state, whole families flee the state,” Antonini said.

Vidalia onion farmers are suffering from a labor shortage because of the law, Toombs County Solicitor Paul Threlkeld said.

“We’ve built an economy on the backs of these folks, and no one wants to treat them like second-class citizens,” he said.

State Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said he understands why people come to the U.S. illegally.

“If I could make $10 an hour rather than $10 a week, believe me, I’d come across the border and do the same thing,” he said.

But since the federal government won’t reform its immigration program to allow more workers into the country legally, the state had to act, Murphy said.

Simply asking for identification, “I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” he said.

Threlkeld said he’s glad a federal judge has halted enforcement of some of the laws provisions, such as one empowering police to check the immigration status of people they pull over or arrest, while he rules on the law’s constitutionality.

Toombs County doesn’t have the resources to enforce the law, he said.

Neither do many cities, which will be required to verify employees’, public works contractors’ and business owners’ immigration status, said Rusi Patel, counsel for the Georgia Municipal Association.

The law may be thrown out because it conflicts with federal law, said Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State University constitutional law professor and advisor to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

State and local police can only enforce federal law if the attorney general certifies them to do so, but HB 87 allows them to enforce immigration law without any training or oversight from the federal government, he said.

October 21, 2011

10/21 – AJC – PolitiFact Georgia | Kent: Immigration board can prosecute with Attorney General’s help

PolitiFact Georgia | Kent: Immigration board can prosecute with Attorney General’s help.

The Truth-O-Meter Says:

The newly created state Immigration Enforcement Review Board “can actually prosecute, and get them [violators] into jail, if we bring in the attorney general.”

Phil Kent on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 in a speech before the North Fulton and Friends Tea Party

Critics of conservative activist Phil Kent have accused him of being a “nativist.” Now that Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed Kent to a new board to crack down on illegal immigration, critics say he’s distorting the truth.

They point to a speech Kent made before the North Fulton and Friends Tea Party on Oct. 4 where he explained the authority of the Immigration Enforcement Review Board. The state General Assembly created it when lawmakers passed House Bill 87, legislation that aims to get tough on illegal immigration.

Kent’s appointment to the board created controversy. The Anti-Defamation League asked Deal to reconsider Kent’s appointment, saying he has a history of making “deeply disturbing” comments about immigrants. Kent said his critics are left-wing extremists pushing their own agenda.

Kent told the tea party group that all the review board does is take complaints about possible violations of state laws on immigration. The board can subpoena witnesses, hold hearings and review or investigate possible violators.

“And yes we can actually prosecute, and get them into jail, if we bring in the attorney general,” Kent said.  “That’s what the open borders, anti-enforcement people don’t like.”

Immigrant rights activist Erik Voss, who videotaped the speech, cried foul. The review board has no authority to bring in the attorney general, much less prosecute or jail violators, he told PolitiFact Georgia.

We thought Kent’s statement was worth a closer look. Can the immigration board call in the attorney general’s office and prosecute?

We looked into the law. The Immigration Enforcement Review Board was created by Section 20 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, also known as House Bill 87.

The seven-member review board fields complaints that Georgia governments or agencies have violated any of three state laws. One bans them from establishing policies that give illegal immigrants safe harbor. A second requires them to check the legal status of applicants for public benefits such as food stamps. The third mandates that their contractors and subcontractors file affidavits saying they use a federal database that checks whether employees are in the U.S. legally.

Some of the violations the board has the authority to investigate can be considered criminal offenses.

Agency workers who purposefully violate the law requiring them to check the legal status of those seeking public benefits commit a misdemeanor, and the attorney general has the authority to investigate. Those who knowingly file false affidavits about their use of the federal database violate felony fraud laws.

Local governments that give safe harbor or sanctuary to illegal immigrants risk losing state funding. The board can issue sanctions such as fines as high as $5,000 if a local government doesn’t fix its problems by deadline.

The section of HB 87 that established the immigration board makes no mention of bringing in or collaborating with the attorney general’s office, except to say that the law does not prohibit the state’s top lawyer from “seeking any other remedy available by law.”

We asked the state attorney general’s office for its understanding of the law. A spokeswoman said that the immigration board has civil enforcement authority, while the attorney general has the power to prosecute violators criminally. The immigration board can make recommendations to the attorney general’s office, which will decide whether criminal prosecution is appropriate.

The Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association, interest groups that represent local and county governments, have the same understanding of the immigration board’s powers.

Kent told us that’s how he understands the law, too. If activists think he’s saying that the board has the power to criminally prosecute violators on its own, they’re twisting his words, said Kent, who is national spokesman for Americans for Immigration Control.

“The panel could most certainly, if it felt warranted, ‘bring in the attorney general’ and recommend his office open an investigation with an eye toward prosecution,” Kent said in an email.

Anyone has the power to tell the attorney general of a possible violation of the law, he told us in a telephone interview. “The board can’t do it alone, obviously,” Kent said.

We agree, but that’s not what Kent originally said.

Kent said that the board “can actually prosecute” violators, and “get them into jail,” if it enlists the help of the attorney general’s office.

Actually, the board cannot prosecute anyone or get them into jail.

The board can bring a potential violation to the attorney general’s attention. So can any citizen. That doesn’t mean his office will investigate, much less prosecute.

Kent may have meant to convey that the Immigration Enforcement Review Board can only recommend that the attorney general open an investigation, but he gave the impression it has far more power than that. He therefore earns a False.

October 18, 2011

10/17 – GPB – The Nation: The High Cost Of Anti-Immigrant Laws : NPR

The Nation: The High Cost Of Anti-Immigrant Laws : NPR.

Mexican migrant workers harvest organic spinach at Grant Family Farms on Oct. 11, 2011 in Wellington, Colorado. Many farmers nationwide say they have found it nearly impossible to hire American citizens for labor-intensive seasonal farm work.

Enlarge John Moore/Getty ImagesMexican migrant workers harvest organic spinach at Grant Family Farms on Oct. 11, 2011 in Wellington, Colorado. Many farmers nationwide say they have found it nearly impossible to hire American citizens for labor-intensive seasonal farm work.

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October 17, 2011

Sean Sellers, a former Kellogg Food & Society Fellow, and Greg Asbed, co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, have harvested watermelons in Florida, Georgia, and Missouri.

This past summer, the Econo Lodge off Interstate 75 in Tifton, Georgia, where we and other watermelon harvesters from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) have stayed on and off since 1997, was eerily quiet. Gone were the sweat-soaked shoes piled outside motel rooms, and gone were the workers hanging out during their evening downtime, chatting casually or talking to their families on pay-as-you-go cellphones. In their place, a phone card salesman at the hotel’s front desk told anyone who would listen that his sales had dropped by at least 50 percent this year.

It was mid-June, and we were in town for the watermelon harvest, but we might as well have walked into a ghost town, thanks to Georgia’s recently signed Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act, otherwise known as House Bill 87. And thanks to HB 87, a copycat law of Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, millions of pounds of watermelons were left to rot in the fields this summer—along with peaches, blackberries and cucumbers—as many of the most dependable and experienced farmworkers steered clear of Georgia and headed north for friendlier states, prompting an epic farm labor shortage in Georgia and desperate howls from its planters.

A similar story is unfolding in neighboring Alabama, where a federal judge recently upheld most provisions of an even more draconian bill, championed by Governor Robert Bentley as “the strongest immigration law in the country.” The ruling spurred frantic midnight evacuations, as immigrants fled rural towns across the state, leaving a trail of abandoned homes and businesses. Alabama tomato growers, among others, have decried the law’s swift and deleterious impact on the farm labor market.

The Alabama law makes it a crime for immigrants to not carry proper documents and forces public schools to determine students’ legal status. It also broadens the power of local police to investigate people’s immigration status during routine stops. In Georgia similar provisions were designed to target people suspected of a crime, including simple traffic violations, and who cannot produce proper identification.

Under both states’ laws, starting next year, employers will be required to use the federal E-Verify system—an online tool provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration—to determine their employees’ legal status. In Georgia any worker who uses false documents to get a job could face up to fifteen years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Businesses that don’t comply risk losing their license.

But states considering similar legislation should look at what happened this past summer in Georgia as a cautionary tale. Even before it took effect, in July, Georgia’s harsh new law prompted workers to avoid the state just as its summer crops were coming ripe. Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, described it as “the equivalent of a giant scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.” This continued even as its most controversial provisions—including a section allowing police to investigate the immigration status of people who have not been arrested—were put on hold by a federal judge while a lawsuit challenging the bill’s constitutionality made its way through court. Replacement workers proved scarce, and those locals who showed up for duty lacked the hard-earned skills for the job. The result: an estimated $300 million in lost crops, with potential losses of
$1 billion for the season for the state’s agricultural sector.

How did Georgia come to suffer such a painful, self-inflicted wound? The proximate cause is the intoxicating power of spreading anti-immigrant sentiment, fanned by incendiary Tea Party–style politics, which have found fertile ground throughout much of the South. HB 87 played an important role in Georgia’s gubernatorial election and was strongly supported by the Republican candidate, Nathan Deal; as Georgia’s new governor, he proudly signed HB 87 into law. Many Georgia farmers supported the law as well. Sixth-generation blackberry farmer Gary Paulk was chair of Deal’s gubernatorial campaign in Irwin County, next door to Tifton. He told Time magazine in June that he stood to lose $250,000 for the summer because of the labor shortage, adding, with no apparent self-awareness, that he finds the law “appalling, because they didn’t think through the implications, at the farm level.”

But like most things in the South, the roots of this particular problem run deep, into a long regional history of undervaluing agricultural labor. Georgia’s leaders (and much of its agricultural industry) were confident that replacement workers could be hired without a hiccup in the harvest. This particular confederacy of dunces believed their own rhetoric and are now paying the price. And from the look of things, it really hurts when you shoot yourself in the foot.

Continue reading at The Nation.

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