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Rep. Ramsey preps tough immigration law

Under a proposed law being introduced this Wednesday by Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), employers across the state will be required to verify the residency status of all new job applicants to make sure only American citizens or properly documented aliens can be hired.

Ramsey’s bill also will tighten the process of applying for tax-paid benefits and services. Law officers also could legally check citizenship status during a traffic stop.

Ramsey on Tuesday said the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 is being sponsored by a number of House members and is the culmination of months of work by the Joint House and Senate Committee on Immigration Reform.

“This comprehensive legislation is aimed at addressing the social and economic consequences of illegal immigration in Georgia,” Ramsey said. “I’m proud of this bill, it’s the product of months of study. I’m looking forward to introducing it and starting a committee process to lead it to a vote.”

Ramsey provided The Citizen with a number of highlights included in the legislation.

The bill requires the use of the federal E-Verify Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.

“This is a critical piece of the bill to provide job opportunities for Georgia’s legal residents,” Ramsey said.

The bill will also create new requirements and parameters for verifying an individual’s eligibility to receive state and local government services and benefits.

“The intent is that no dollars coming from taxpayer-funded benefits are flowing to those not entitled to receive them,” said Ramsey, citing housing assistance programs as an example. “(Those requirements and parameters establish) what is and is not acceptable to get state and local government services and benefits.”

Another section of the bill creates new criminal offenses for the prosecution of those who knowingly induce, harbor or transport illegal immigrants.

Ramsey said the bill also creates greater enforcement mechanisms to ensure that government officials comply with immigration law. This provision of the bill would give the state’s adult citizens the capability of bringing legal action against a government agency or official who is not following the law, Ramsey said.

The bill also creates incentives to encourage local governments to participate in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “Secure Communities” program dealing with the identification and potential removal of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.

Yet another facet of the bill would give law enforcement officers after a lawful motor vehicle stop the ability to pursue a check of the individual’s citizenship status and act accordingly if the person does not have proper identification and if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person is illegal.

Any action that follows that suspicion would depend on what resources are available to the officer in a given area of the state and whether there is a federal facility in proximity to that location that is accepting illegal immigrants, Ramsey said.

“If nothing else it will be documented that the person is here illegally,” Ramsey added.

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The following is a statement issued Jan. 25 by Rep. Ramsey. It is reproduced here in its entirety.]

Rep. Ramsey to introduce “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011”

There is no country in the world more welcoming to immigrants than the United States of America. While we offer immigrants an opportunity to improve their employment, standard of living, and personal freedoms, perhaps the greatest opportunity we provide is a chance for immigrants to join the American melting pot of cultures and become American.

Only in America does the stranger become, not simply a permanent resident, but one of us; every bit as American as the descendant of a Mayflower pilgrim.

With this great privilege, however, comes responsibility. The most basic responsibility, shared by us all, is to obey the law. The rule of law is the keystone that holds together our orderly society. Unfortunately, it is clear that we have experienced a complete breakdown of America’s immigration law.

Though long ignored by Washington, Georgia literally cannot afford to ignore the economic burden created by our unsecure borders.

The economic downturn caused Georgia’s unemployment to rise to record highs and state revenues to plummet to new lows.

We continue to see huge reductions to every segment of our state budget, meaning state services are stretched thinner than ever before.

School classrooms are more crowded, our healthcare system is at its limits, transportation infrastructure is overburdened and our law enforcement community is working feverishly to do more work with fewer resources.

It would be patently irresponsible not to address the issues posed by Georgia’s estimated 400,000-plus illegal aliens.

With this in mind and after a great deal of study the members of the Special Committee on Immigration Reform are introducing the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.”

This legislation includes numerous common-sense reforms aimed at addressing the social and economic consequences in Georgia resulting from the federal government’s inability to secure our nation’s borders.

This legislation will require the use of the federal E-Verify system by private employers in this state. This is a common sense step towards ensuring that available job opportunities are afforded only to our legal residents and that employers stay within existing law.

The legislation will also protect citizens from an unlawful burden on taxpayer-funded services by requiring the use of only secure and verifiable identification documents for any official purpose, including the dispensation of public benefits.

Further, it will provide greater incentives for law enforcement agencies to apply for participation in federal partnerships that provide for faster and more efficient identification and transfer of illegal aliens.

In addition, the bill provides important new tools for law enforcement officers and provides them greater latitude in handling immigration issues during a lawful stop or detention.

The bill also creates criminal penalties for any individual that encourages an illegal alien to come to Georgia or that transports or harbors an illegal alien once they arrive.

This is not an exercise in scapegoating. Our nation’s illegal immigration crisis ultimately represents a failure of government. The federal government’s failure to secure our borders serves as an open invitation for illegal immigration.

The employers who encourage and reward illegal immigration are certainly not blameless. Make no mistake: those here illegally did not act alone.

However, violation of the law cannot be simply ignored, particularly when the enormous costs of those violations weighs so heavily on Georgia taxpayers during these difficult economic times.

[Representative Matt Ramsey represents the citizens of District 72, which includes portions of Fayette County. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2007, and was elected by the House Majority Caucus to serve as their Caucus Vice-Chairman in 2010.]

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