Governor Deal Signs Immigration Bill into Law
ATLANTA (WAOK)-Gov. Nathan Deal finally signed the immigration legislation passed by the General Assembly into law on Friday making Georgia one of the toughest states in the nation in dealing with immigration enforcement. The signing was immediately met with threats of court challenges.
Starting July 1 under Georgia’s House Bill 87, police will be able to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. The measure also sets new hiring requirements for employers and penalizes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants here.
A recent estimate by the Pew Hispanic Center puts the number of illegal immigrants in Georgia at 425,000, the seventh-highest among the states.
According to the AJC, Georgia is now one of only three states to adopt this type of immigration law as efforts to get comprehensive immigration legislation through Congress have failed. Officials in Arizona and Utah have also enacted tough laws targeting illegal immigration, complaining the federal government has not secured the nation’s borders. But federal judges have halted both of those states’ laws amid complaints that they are unconstitutional.
Local opponents of the measure said Friday that they have been working with some national organizations in drafting a lawsuit to challenge the measure in Atlanta’s federal district court, arguing Georgia is overstepping its bounds.
About two dozen opponents of HB 87 gathered outside of Deal’s office Friday, shouting “Shame on you” and “Undocumented and unafraid.” Dozens more demonstrated outside the state Capitol, carrying signs proclaiming “R.I.P. Southern Hospitality” and “Immigrant Rights are Human Rights.”
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When provisions of Georgia’s House Bill 87 will take effect:
- Local and state police will be empowered to arrest illegal immigrants and take them to state and federal jails.
- People who use fake identification to get a job in Georgia could face up to 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
- People who — while committing another crime — knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants or encourage them to come to Georgia could face penalties. First-time offenders would face imprisonment for up to 12 months and up to $1,000 in fines.
- A seven-member Immigration Enforcement Review Board will be established to investigate complaints about local and state government officials not enforcing state immigration-related laws.
- Government officials who violate state laws requiring cities, counties and state government agencies to use E-Verify could face fines up to $10,000 and removal from office.
- The state Agriculture Department will be directed to study the possibility of creating Georgia’s own guest-worker program. Some Georgia employers have complained the federal government’s guest-worker program is too burdensome and expensive.
- State and local government agencies must start requiring people who apply for public benefits — such as food stamps, housing assistance and business licenses — to provide at least one “secure and verifiable” document, which could be a state or federally issued form of identification. Consular matriculation cards will not be accepted. The state attorney general’s office is required to post a list of acceptable documents on its website by Aug. 1.
- Georgia businesses will be required to use the federal E-Verify program to determine whether their new hires are eligible to work legally in the United States. Businesses with 500 or more employees must start complying with this provision Jan. 1. Businesses with 100 or more employees but fewer than 500 must start complying with this provision July 1, 2012. This requirement applies to businesses with between 11 and 99 employees starting July 1, 2013. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees are exempt.
The immigration law even found it’s way into the spotlight during the Civil Rights Game celebration over the weekend. Here is what Mexican born singer and musician Carlos Santana had to say about Georgia’s new immigration law.
Several people in the audience booed Santana for his comments.