Crunch Time for Georgia Immigration Bill

by Mark Krikorian

Georgia’s legislative session ends this week, and it’ll  be interesting to see if the Republican-controlled legislature will allow what is probably the most effective state immigration bill in the country to actually reach Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk intact.

I’ve written (here, here, and here) about how Deal (a Republican, apparently) seems to have “grown” in office, going all squishy on immigration despite his hawkish record in Congress. And Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle also ran as an immigration hawk, but told the state’s chamber of commerce earlier this year: “I believe the rule of law is important, but over-regulation on businesses would just not be right and we’re not going to see it happen this session” (meaning he opposed mandating that employers spend an extra 45 seconds e-verifying the legal status of their new hires) — basically the same sentiment as Sen. Little Jerk’s observation that “free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.”

Anyway, the Georgia bill (HB 87) has penalties for violation of the mandates already put into place by the state’s 2006 immigration law for state and local officials who illegally administer public benefits, penalties for use of fake IDs to get a job, requirements that police check the immigration status of any alien taken to a jail or found to be without U.S.-issued ID, and penalties for transporting illegal aliens.

My friend on the ground in Georgia, D. A. King, a passionate and long-time pro-enforcement advocate, helped with the 2006 law and has done the same with this 25-page attempt at attrition through enforcement. He tells me that the heart of the bill is the extension of the existing E-Verify requirement (for government agencies and contractors) to all employers with more than four employees — even the agriculture industry.

Predictably, the bill has unified the corporate rope-sellers with the ethnic chauvinists in a coalition with a common message of opposition to state immigration enforcement in general and HB 87 in particular.

The illegals and their allies held a rally at the state capitol late last month that drew around 5,000 people, including Rep. John Lewis; King tells the story vividly here.

The Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau were drawn out and forced to testify in open committee against enforcement, which is apparently something new. King reports that the Chamber lobbyist told the House Judiciary committee that the error rate of E-Verify was “50 percent all the way up to 80 percent” — which is hard to describe as anything other than a lie. Meanwhile, the lobbyist for the Georgia Agribusiness Council complained in committee that the (numerically unlimited) H-2A farmworker program was just too darn expensive: “The H2A is very good if you can afford it…the H2A visa is a Cadillac system — and not everyone can afford a Cadillac.” (At least they’ve admitted that it’s just about cheap labor.)

The mendacity continued when the Georgia Restaurant Association claimed that each E-Verify query costs employers $127 — I’ve used (the completely free) E-Verify for years at CIS and this is nonsense on stilts. The Farm Bureau lobbyists repeated the same false claim, adding this twist:

While we encourage all businesses to abide by Federal law and only hire legally documented workers, our state’s unemployment rate still leads the nation, and we should look for alternatives to adding new costly mandates that could discourage legal job creation. Mandating the E-Verify program will harm Georgia’s economy, not enhance it.

In other words, the state legislature should kill a measure to prevent illegals from stealing American jobs because the unemployment rate is so high!

As King told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s a contest between the chamber-of-commerce Republicans and the rule-of-law Republicans.”

Let’s hope the right side wins.

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