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Georgia immigration fight a sham

By Tom Crawford As goes Arizona, so goes Georgia. Lawmakers got the ball rolling last week on the issue that could be the dominating one for this session of the General Assembly: immigration control. Bills were introduced that mirror a law enacted by Arizona last year to crack down on undocumented immigrants. These measures would give law enforcement officers free rein to lock up just about anyone they think is not an American citizen. Employers who apply for a business license or occupational tax certificate would be required to prove that they are using a federal verification system to check the citizenship status of their employees. Undocumented residents attending the state’s public colleges would be kicked out of their classes. Persons who believe their local sheriff or police department is not enforcing the immigration law would be allowed to sue them in Superior Court. The agency could be subject to a fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 if a judge finds that it is not complying with the law’s provisions. ”Our nation’s illegal immigration crisis ultimately represents a failure of government,” said Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, who co-chaired with Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, a study committee that examined the immigration problem. Murphy was even more outspoken on the issue, saying that federal border agents should “shoot to kill” people who are caught sneaking into the country. These bills are necessary, Ramsey said, because “the federal government’s failure to secure our borders serves as an open invitation for illegal immigration.” Ramsey, who’s a lawyer by trade, hit upon the key word in his statement: federal. This issue was defined in the U.S. Constitution more than 200 years ago. Congress was given the authority to pass laws regulating immigration and naturalization, not the states. While many people are upset with the lack of action by the U.S. House and Senate on immigration matters, those are the political bodies with the legal power to address the problem. Even if Georgia’s immigration bill is signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal, as it probably will be, that’s as far as it goes. The U.S. Justice Department will challenge the law in federal court and have it set aside, just as it did with the Arizona law. That’s why all this talk about solving the immigration problem at the state level is a sham. This is the federal government’s problem and the blame for not resolving it must fall on the people elected to Congress. The feds would be doing Georgia a big favor if they step in and have a new immigration law put on ice. The state’s largest industry, agriculture, would collapse if Georgia were actually successful in booting out every undocumented immigrant. Farmers depend upon a huge influx of migrant workers to get their crops harvested. The Georgia Farm Bureau adopted a resolution in December warning legislators about the consequences of passing a law that puts farmers at a competitive disadvantage. ”We think immigration is a federal issue, and it needs a federal solution,” said Jon Huffmaster, of the Farm Bureau. “And we think a patchwork of state laws could cause more problems than it solves.” Chris Hobby, the city manager of Bainbridge down in Georgia’s southwestern corner, made a similar observation. ”We have to have these migrant workers,” he said. “The corn and tomato crops are dependent on them. It’s not something they (farmers) do because they want to, that’s where their labor comes from. That’s just the way it is.” Hobby added that local governments such as his, which are already hurting because of the economic downturn, would be further burdened by a state law that requires them to lock up anyone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant. ”We have a big influx of migrant workers twice a year because of the vegetable crops around here,” he said. “We can’t afford the burden (of verifying the citizenship status of every migrant worker and jailing those who don’t have papers). That would be a budget-breaker for us.” Like it or not, immigration is an issue that must be addressed at the federal level. State legislators are not the people to be calling. You should start with Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson and work your way down from there.

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