The State of Georgia has done what the U.S. Congress (thanks largely to political gamesmanship in the Senate) cannot. It has produced signed, sealed and delivered legislation to deal with the state's burden of illegal immigration.
Georgia's new law is not a panacea. It will not start taking effect until 2007 and some provisions will not be fully implemented for several years beyond that. It is limited to the boundaries of the state and by the authority thereof, but it is regarded as one of the toughest laws passed by any state. With as many as 40 other states considering some form of illegal immigration legislation, the Georgia law could serve as a stimulus to other states and ultimately to the Congress to act.
So what does Georgia's law do?
It will require state and local government agencies to determine the legal status of adults applying for taxpayer-funded benefits and deny many services to illegals.
It will deny tax deductions to employers for wages paid in excess of $600 to illegals and also require that state income taxes be withheld from illegals for whom IRS 1099s have been filed.
It requires that state and local government contractors and subcontractors certify the legal status of new hires.
It will provide immigration law training to Georgia law enforcement personnel and require that illegals who are arrested be reported to federal immigration authorities.
It imposes prison terms of up to 20 years for "human trafficking."
While the law is tough, it will deny no state services to the children of illegals, including the right to attend public schools, and it will not withhold emergency medical care from adults. Some of it, such as reporting illegals to the feds, will initially yield the same big whoop it has in numerous reported instances of the feds doing nothing, but as with all things political, effects are cumulative and it takes big waves to break the dams of intransigence.
One measure of perceptions regarding Georgia's law comes from the South of Our Border reaction by Ruben Aguilar, a spokesman for Mexican President Vicente Fox. "The referred legislation incurs discriminatory acts against the Mexican population and those of Mexican origin. It is a partial measure that fails to resolve the complex phenomenon of immigration between Mexico and the United States in an integral manner," the BBC has quoted Mr. Aguilar as saying.
That's pretty interesting, coming from a government that openly encourages its citizens to break our laws and has, shall we say, some constitutional issues of its own with regard to immigration (as we pointed out in an Action Alert this week).
Since estimates of Georgia's illegal population range from 250,000 to 800,000, with significant seasonal variations reflecting the number who do agricultural work, it is impossible for the state to quantify the practical effects of the law.
One thing is certain. Polls consistently showed that approximately 80% of Georgians wanted consequential action and they got it. Yes, in an election year, yes, from a Republican-controlled government, but what better time from what other legislators and governor?
If Georgia's aggressive law, in its limited context, does nothing more than give other states the gumption to move decidedly, those combined efforts cannot help but move a do-nothing-but-posture Senate to some action. And, if not or if it is the wrong action? Did we mention it is an election year?April 20, 2006
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