OP-ed By Kung Li

The state of Georgia is home to about a million immigrants.  Some are here on student visas. Some are awaiting a green card.  Some fled war zones and are seeking refugee status.  Some fled economic devastation and came looking for work, no matter strenuous and how low paying.  Some were brought here as children by their parents, and know no other home than Georgia.  

Do we want them here?

Absolutely.   Here’s why.

Immigrants reduce crime.  That’s right. The more immigrants we can attract and keep here in Georgia, the safer we will be.  Research by unbiased social scientists directly contradicts the hysteria ginned up by politicians who are more interested in their own careers than the well being of their constituents.  A recent study by University of Colorado professor Tim Wadsworth confirms the results published last year by a group of criminologists led by Jacob Stowell at the University of Massachusetts, as well as a separate study by Graham Ousey and Charis Kubrin, that immigration lowers violent crime rates.  The number of homicides drop. There are fewer robberies.  It’s not just by a little bit – Wadsworth’s research led him to conclude that “growth in immigration may have been responsible for part of the precipitous crime drop of the 1990s.” And it makes no difference whether the immigrants are documented or undocumented.  More immigrants result in less crime.

Immigrants boost the economy.  Immigrants pour billions of dollars into the state’s economy, buying your Ford F150 off of craigslist, the house down the street, kale and peaches from the farmer’s market, Braves tickets, and dinner at Mary Mac’s. Undocumented immigrants alone make a direct contribution of $250 million to Georgia’s coffers every year in sales, income and property taxes.   Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform point out that changing the law to allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents or citizens would create jobs, increase wages and generate more tax revenue, adding an estimated $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade.  Since the economic benefits will concentrate in places where there are large numbers of immigrants, Georgia  should do what it can now to welcome immigrant families.

Immigrants keep Georgia young and vibrant.  Since 1990, immigrants have been a founding partner in over a quarter of all venture-backed public companies. This enterprising spirit is partly a function of age – immigrants tend to be young – and partly due to a preference for starting small business ventures over entering corporate life.   As Georgia gets to work digging ourselves out of the great recession, we need as many entrepreneurs as we can get.   

So why are some Georgia legislators trying to drive immigrants out of Georgia?  House Bill 87, dropped last week, is modeled after Arizona’s SB1070, a showboat – and apparently unconstitutional – law designed to scare away undocumented immigrants by turning local law enforcement officers into immigration police. 

A federal judge has blocked the most extreme parts of Arizona’s SB 1070, on the principle that certain things are exclusively within the powers of the federal government.  Waging war is one of them.  Immigration is another.  Just as the individual states have no business declaring war against, say, France, nor may they take control over immigration policy.

The injunction may have come too late, though, to save Arizona from itself. Arizona’s immigrants have started moving out of the state by the thousands, leaving empty houses in a state already rocked by foreclosures.  The state of Arizona has the third worst foreclosure rate in the country, with one out of every 189 housing units in foreclosure.  The impact is even greater in Phoenix, where Sheriff Joe Arpiao supplements his paid police force with “deputized” volunteers instructed to target and harass immigrants.  There, the foreclosure rate has soared to an astounding 1 out of every 23 housing units.  Even in families where only one person is out of status, entire families have picked up and moved, taking with them millions of dollars they will now use to goose the economy of some other state.

If the Georgia legislature had the power to do so, the best thing it could do for our state would be to provide legal status to the approximately 500,000 immigrants living here who are currently out of status.  But just as a state cannot enforce immigration laws, nor can it change a person’s immigration status.

So what to do? Grandstanding – and unconstitutional – legislation like HB87 is certainly not the right answer.  Rather, Georgia’s legislators should be finding ways to welcome and protect all immigrants – including those who are currently out of status – for as long as it takes Congress to get its act together to pass federal immigration reform.  Given the current composition of Congress, it may be years before Congress gets around to updating the immigration quotas so that Georgia’s approximately 500,000 immigrants can come into legal status. But that day will come. In the meantime, Georgia’s best move is to make them safe and welcome residents of our state.

 Kung Li

Fellow, Open Society Institute

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Immigration Bill Targets Schools, Hospitals (via aaronatl)

Immigration Bill Targets Schools, Hospitals Clark: HB 269 Designed To Count Illegals By Mike Paluska, CBS Atlanta Reporter     ATLANTA — Rep. Josh Clark, R-Buford, introduced legislation that would require schools and hospitals to collect data regarding a patient's immigration status.  “Georgians would be able to see how much money is actually spent on illegal immigrants,” Clark said.  The legislation would require school districts and hospitals … Read More

via aaronatl

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Immigration Bill Targets Schools, Hospitals

Immigration Bill Targets Schools, Hospitals

Clark: HB 269 Designed To Count Illegals

 

 

Rep. Josh Clark, R-Buford, introduced legislation that would require schools and hospitals to collect data regarding a patient’s immigration status. 

“Georgians would be able to see how much money is actually spent on illegal immigrants,” Clark said. 

The legislation would require school districts and hospitals to collect and maintain data for research purposes. The information would then be compiled and published on the state board of education’s website and on the Department of Community Health’s website. 

“People should not be afraid that seeking emergency care would result in deportation or other consequences,” said Azadeh Shahshahani of the American Civil Liberties Union. “We believe even requiring parents to report their children immigration status, that by itself would chill parents from seeking public education for their children.” 

The legislative policy director for the Georgia Schools Board Association, Angela Palm, feels the bill would also keep children from getting a good education. 

“There is a concern that when a parent brings a child to be enrolled, and the district says are you here legally or illegally, they would be inclined not to enroll their children,” Palm said. “I think it would leave schools in a difficult place facing legal challenges and distract them from what their purpose is and that is to educate every child that shows up.” 

“This is a way to tell the taxpayers what they are spending on illegal immigrants,” said Clark. “What are the figures? Nobody really has entirely accurate figures. We are not trying to make them immigration enforcers simply when they register their child or go to a hospital. We should know we are actually gathering that information. We’ll simply keep track of that.”

You can see the full article at: http://www.cbsatlanta.com/news/26972600/detail.html
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Pro & Con: Does Georgia need tougher laws against illegal immigrants?

Pro & Con: Does Georgia need tougher laws against illegal immigrants?

By Matt Ramsey

In recent weeks, much has been said and written about efforts in the Legislature to enact common-sense state reforms aimed at addressing the issues posed in Georgia by the federal government’s failure to secure our nation’s borders.

One of them is my bill, HB 87, which beefs up enforcement to prevent illegal aliens from getting government benefits and tightens-up what forms of identification can be accepted to receive those benefits. The bill also requires the use of E-Verify by private employers to ensure that job opportunities are protected for those legally eligible to hold them.

Incredibly, the rhetoric being put forth by many opinion writers and special interest groups such as the ACLU fails to ever even acknowledge the devastating social and economic consequences in Georgia resulting from the presence of 425,000 illegal aliens (more than Arizona). The special interests have apparently decided on an opposition strategy based on hysterical and fact-free political scare tactics rather than real debate.

Those who oppose the enforcement of immigration law and support open borders may find the arguments made by opponents of HB 87 compelling. Thankfully, the vast majority of Georgians believe enforcing the rule of law and protecting taxpayer-funded benefits and services for those eligible to receive them, as well as jobs, are critical and necessary goals.

Opponents of HB 87 raise concerns about costs of enforcement, while failing to mention the huge cost borne by taxpayers in subsidizing hundreds of thousands of people in this country in violation of our very liberal immigration laws. One study estimates the total cost to Georgia’s state and local taxpayers is a whopping $2.4 billion per year. The common refrain by the opponents of this legislation that illegal immigration is “solely a federal issue” is patently ridiculous when you consider it is state and local taxpayers who are footing the bill.

Another argument we often hear is that HB 87 will have a detrimental impact on our agriculture industry’s labor pool. This argument is often made without mention of the existing H-2A visa program that provides a legal avenue to import an unlimited number of temporary foreign workers for our ag industry. Beyond that, no one will ever convince me that Georgia’s future economic prosperity depends on those who are in our country illegally.

Perhaps the most misleading rhetoric in this debate has been the attempt to discredit the use of the free, easy and effective employment eligibility verification system known as E-Verify. Statements have been made about the “inaccuracies” inherent in the system. Let me report the facts. Based on FY 2009 data, E-Verify instantly verifies 97.4 percent of all employees as eligible to work. The very small percentage who are not instantly verified are given the right to appeal before an employer can take action. Further, the 16,000 Georgia employers already enrolled in this user-friendly system will tell you it takes a matter of minutes to enroll and adds less than a minute to the hiring process.

Those who rely on illegal labor know that the use of E-Verify will deter illegal employment and they will stop at nothing to prevent its use. Critics of this measure continue to attempt to obscure the simple fact that E-Verify protects jobs for Georgians legally eligible to hold them and that there is absolutely nothing about the use of the program that will prevent a single employer in Georgia, in any industry, from employing a legal work force.

The citizen support for legislation aimed at addressing this issue has been overwhelming, and I encourage Georgians to remain engaged on this critical issue. Georgians should continue to strive to separate fact from fiction. So should many opinion writers.

 State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, is an attorney.

 NO: Unconstitutional Arizona-style laws are a bonanza to lawyers.

 By Charles H. Kuck

 From the perspective of a lifelong Republican, I am always troubled when the state Legislature starts looking at ways to “fix” a problem by getting the government more, rather than less, involved in the lives of its citizens. That is absolutely the case with the pending legislation on immigration. A detailed review of HB 87 and its Senate companion, SB 40, reveals that these bills do not reform illegal immigration, nor do they enforce laws related to illegal immigration.

What they do is increase taxes on every resident of Georgia by increasing government regulation, create unfunded mandates for every county and city in Georgia, and create new private rights of action against every Georgia polity, resulting in hundreds of lawsuits that will drain taxpayer coffers and result in little, if any, real change in illegal immigration.

This legislation is popular because it gives the perception that the state is doing something that the federal government purportedly is not — enforcing federal laws on illegal immigration.

The problem with this notion is twofold.

First, the federal government is doing more than it has ever done in enforcing the laws on undocumented immigration. The Obama administration is spending literally billions of taxpayer dollars building fences, hiring border patrol agents, detaining undocumented immigrants and actually deporting 400,000 people last year, a record.

Second, these proposals do not create any greater degree of enforcement than already exists under state and federal law. By Sept. 30, 2013, everyone arrested in Georgia is going to be run through the Secure Communities program, and if they are unlawfully present in the United States, they are being held for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pick up within 48 hours.

Without discussing the deleterious details of this program (DWH — Driving While Hispanic), it has resulted in a record number of cases filling our immigration court dockets.

So, if these bills do not reform immigration, do not effectively increase enforcement, and do not make Georgia safer, what will they do? They will increase taxes on Georgians, force cities and municipalities to hire previously unnecessary personnel, and make litigation lawyers smile.

These proposals have as their main thrust a desire to make Georgia like Arizona. The bill is designed to make it so hard to live as an undocumented immigrant in Georgia, that such immigrants will leave the state. If this bill accomplishes its purpose it could result in the departure of more than 1 million people, along with their tax money, investments, talent and businesses.

There are also at least two provisions that will never be enforced, and which will be struck down as unconstitutional or pre-empted before they even go into effect, for the same reasons that similar provisions in the Arizona bill were struck down. Those dealing with unconstitutional police stops and nondefinitions of reasonable cause beg for a judge to overturn this law.

The authorizing of private lawsuits against government agencies looks like a lawyer’s full employment act, and business-destroying mandates and penalties best dealt with under federal law will simply shut down businesses and cause greater unemployment.

These proposals are bad public policy and bad for Georgia. If our legislators really want to fix the immigration problem they should all take a day and go to Washington, and demand that Congress fix our immigration system, rather than trying to put a Band-Aid on a gaping shotgun wound.

 Charles H. Kuck, an immigration attorney, is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Georgia, and a past national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

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