Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Legislation Update (GA and AL)

HB 87 (Georgia)

On May 13, 2011 Georgia’s governor Nathan Deal signed HB 87 into law. This is one of the toughest laws so far against immigrants. It would allow law enforcement officers to demand to know the immigration status of people involved with other criminal investigations and make the use of fake identification punishable by as much as 15 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. It would also punish people who “knowingly transport illegal immigrants during the commission of a crime” with up to a year in jail and up to $1000.

A group of civil and immigrant rights groups have sued the state of Georgia and requested a temporary injunction on the law until the end of the lawsuit. One of the people involved in the lawsuit is Republican Paul Bridges, mayor of Uvalda. He wrote an opinion piece on CNN’s website defending his decision to challenge the law, arguing that the law will deal a devastating blow to Uvalda and Georgia’s economy, especially to small businesses and farmers who already have trouble finding enough workers. His arguments are interesting in that they point out why the law runs counter to Republican ideals. First, he paints the law as the ultimate government intrusion; in his small town of 600, neighbors often help each other out by giving rides. Now, it could be a crime to do so if the passenger happened to be an undocumented person. Second, he points out the sheer amount of money that will be lost to this law and reminds people that it is not the fiscal responsibility that Republicans believe in.

Click here to read the full text of Mayor Paul Bridges’ opinion piece.

People left of center have always been the majority of those fighting anti-immigration laws. It is very heartening to see someone like Mayor Paul Bridges, firmly right of center, also stand against this law.

HB 56 (Alabama):

Governor Robert Bentley signed Alabama’s copycat version of SB 1070 into law on June 9th, 2011. Like Georgia’s law, it allows police officers to question someone’s immigration status if he/she is stopped by law enforcement for any reason. It also makes it a crime to transport or rent housing to an undocumented person.

Unique to Alabama, however, are two other more restrictive provisions. One is the requirement that businesses cross check all their employees’ immigration statuses with an online system called E-Verify. This will generate high costs for businesses in both its implementation and its effects on their employees. Another provision requires schools to collect information on where its students and their parents were born. Lawmakers claim the information will just be used as data to answer the question of how much Alabama is spending to educate undocumented children, but parents will most definitely be concerned about the implications for their children’s safety. Some might even decide to not send their children to school.

The law takes effect on September 1, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama has filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.


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