Immigration revamp passes House, Senate
Georgia is now one step away from having a very aggressive immigration law.
In the last day of the legislative session Thursday, the Georgia House and Senate agreed to the legislation pushed by Peachtree City Republican Rep. Matt Ramsey.
Ramsey said he is confident the bill will win the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal, but there has been some public backlash against the bill and Deal is sure to face some political heat before making his decision.
The heart of the bill is aimed at keeping illegal immigrants from gaining employment, as it requires all businesses with 10 or more employees to use a computer network run by the federal government to check a job applicant’s immigration status.
The bill also retained a provision allowing law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone who is being investigated for a crime, including misdemeanors and traffic stops. Current Georgia law allows immigration checks only for those charged with committing a felony offense.
The law will allow law enforcement to report any illegal immigrants to the federal government, but the truth is that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement currently is only deporting immigrants accused of felonies.
The bill also is aimed at withholding public tax “benefits” from being spent on illegal immigrants, a whole laundry list of items ranging from housing assistance to a dental license, Ramsey said.
Georgia, however — by federal law — cannot deny access to K-12 schools and also emergency medical care to illegal immigrants, he noted.
“This immigration bill we think it the strongest and most aggressive in the country,” Ramsey said. “It is Constitutional. We are very proud of the product and we think it’s just a great day for Georgia.”
The requirement for Georgia businesses to participate in the federal government’s E-Verify system starts in nine months for the largest companies in the state, with a staggered requirement date for the remaining companies based on their size, Ramsey said.
Businesses must swear in an annual affidavit that they are using E-Verify in order to qualify for a locally-issued business license or tax occupation certificate, Ramsey said.
That means that each city and county in Georgia will be keeping track of those affidavits, and any business found to not be participating in E-Verify after submitting said affidavit can be prosecuted for perjury or false swearing, Ramsey said.
A business that fails to submit such an affidavit may not be issued a business license or occupational tax certificate, Ramsey said.
One concession in the bill, forged by the Senate, was the creation of a study on the U.S. guest worker program by the Georgia Department of Agriculture to provide recommendations for usability improvements to the federal government, Ramsey said.
Ramsey credited passage of the bill to the cooperation between the leadership of the House and the Senate.
“We got almost everything we wanted, and every bit of the important pieces of the bill remained intact,” Ramsey said.
Also passing Thursday night on the final day of the legislative session was Ramsey’s interstate insurance bill, which would remove entanglements so insurance companies can offer the same plan in Georgia that they do in neighboring states.
Ramsey said this will help drive down the cost of health insurance for Georgia residents.