Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Georgia's Immigration Reform (or PR?)

The big news in immigration reform today did not happen in Washington but in Atlanta.

Governor Sunny Perdue of Georgia signed into law a bill that cracks down on undocumented immigrants in the state. It's unclear what the bill actually does that federal doesn't already deal with, such as requiring identity documents for state-administered benefits, employer sanctions for those who hire undocumented immigrants, etc. In this respect, the law seems more like posturing than substance.

The only cutting edge part of the law is requiring police to check the immigration status of people they encounter. While this is already common practice in some parts of the country, it is no mandated by state or federal law (until now). Similar provisions exist in HR 4437 and the Senate bills (which are still not law).

Although many of its provisions will not take effect until July 1, 2007, the Governor is already anticipating a public relations problem. At the signing, according to the New york Times, he said "I want to make this clear — we are not, Georgia's government is not, and this bill is not, anti-immigrant. We simply believe that everyone who lives in our state needs to abide by our laws."

Now with Georgia as a case study, let's hope the rest of the nation can learn from this mistake. Perhaps future statistics will show how detrimental this law was for Georgia and its economy. Hopefully we'll be able to measure how immigrant communities in Georgia wil no longer cooperate with the police, more domestic violence incidents and community dangers may go unreported, etc. If undocumented immigrants are unwelcome in Georgia, will ALL immigrants now choose other states to relocate too? What will this mean for the economy in Georgia?

The future will tell...

ACTION STEP: Contact Governor Perdue and express your outrage at this new law. Tel: 404-656-1776 or use on-line form at http://www.gov.state.ga.us/contact_dom.shtml