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Governor Signs Immigration Bills, Protesters March at State House

Category: Local Govts & Politics

SBJ Staff Report

May 16, 2011 – Last Friday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the controversial bill that allows local police officers to ask for proof of citizenship when interrogating people during routine police matters, and requires that all employers with more than 10 employees to check the immigration status of new employees.

Protesters picketed the signing event and the governor added to the controversy of the day by shutting out an Atlanta TV station reporter team that had run a negative news story on him the previous night.

Most of the provisions of the law will come into effect as soon as July 1 at the height of the Georgia agricultural season, though opponents have vowed to file lawsuits to attempt to stop its implementation. Deal signed the bill despite rulings by the federal courts in April that have blocked portions of similar laws passed more than a year ago in Arizona.

The bill allows police officers to verify the immigration status of people suspected of certain crimes and arrest those without proof of citizenship for possible deportation on the spot. Opponents believe this will lead to racial profiling in police activities.

It also requires all Georgia businesses with 10 or more employees to use the federal database to check that new hires are authorized to work in the U.S, a database that opponents state is often inaccurate.

Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence said in an interview Friday that he and the staff will be discussing the potential impact he will face in Chatham County this week if arrests of immigrants increase.

“That’s up for discussion right now. As far as the jail situation, we’re overcrowded right now, but under law, we have to house whoever they bring us. It’s the law, not a choice. Our position is going to be that with a multitude of the warrants we already have, if they arrest illegals, we’ll handle it,” he said. St. Lawrence said that he has not seen any type of projections from any statewide groups on anticipated numbers of arrests.

In Arizona, a lower court ruling to block the certain provisions of that law was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco on April 11. A number of states have delayed passing bills similar to Arizona’s due to the various court challenges still going on, but Deal decided to move forward.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has taken a stance in opposition to the requirement that businesses must verify citizenship using the federal E-Verify database, stating that the bill puts the responsibility of addressing the U.S.’s immigration issues on the backs of small businesses, and joining the chorus of those concerned about the quality of the federal database.

The implementation comes at the beginning of the agricultural season for Georgia where migrant workers are pivotal to the Georgia economy that is heavily dependent on agricultural products, including their shipment.

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