Get Out Your Wallets, Georgians! State Lawmakers Pass Costly Immigration Measure

Despite the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to uphold a preliminary injunction against provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 earlier this week, state lawmakers in Georgia passed their own version of Arizona’s law (HB 87) last night, which allows police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects and requires businesses to verify work eligibility of new hires, but not without controversy. Like other states, Georgia lawmakers mulled provisions of their enforcement-only immigration bills—provisions Georgia’s business community fears will hurt the state’s farming and restaurant industries and advocacy groups fear will lead to racial profiling. Some groups are even planning an economic boycott of Georgia—a boycott similar to Arizona’s which is still costing the state.

Over the last week, lawmakers in Georgia debated HB 87’s impact on small businesses and agricultural industries, worrying that work verification requirements would put them at a disadvantage to farmers in other states. On Monday, the Senate stripped the verification provision from the bill, but the House put it back in on Tuesday. Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of bill (by a vote of 37-19), exempting businesses with 10 or fewer employers from the requirement, which the House then approved by a vote of 112-59. The bill now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal, who, although silent on the bill, is expected to either sign or let time out, which under Georgia law, automatically makes the bill a law without a veto after 40 days.

Still, businesses and community members in the state worry that the law will cost them like it has Arizona.

“We’re coming out of [a] recession, and businesses are doing all they can do right now to stay afloat,” said Jann Moore, senior director of public policy and education for the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. “To turn around and put the responsibility of another policy on business is the wrong thing to do. The timing could not be worse.”

Last week, a group of 270 agricultural leaders—including leaders from the Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Agribusiness Council and the Georgia Urban Ag Council—sent a letter urging lawmakers to kill the Arizona-style enforcement measure. Even rural Republicans in the state worry the bill will hurt the “state’s $68.8 billion agricultural industry, which relies heavily on migrant labor.”

And they’re not the only ones. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said this week that Indiana is considering dropping enforcement provision from their immigration bill (SB 590) due to concerns of racial profiling and its effect on business. Earlier this year, two of Indiana’s biggest manufacturers—Eli Lilly and Co. (a drug manufacturer) and Cummins Inc. (an engine manufacturer)—urged lawmakers to consider how SB 590 will “impede their ability to compete globally and grow in Indiana.” The manufacturing giants, by the by, generate billions of dollars in economic output and add jobs to the state.

Before signing HB 87 into law, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal might want to consider the whopping $490 million Arizona has already lost in tourism revenue, $141 million in cancelled conferences, the “quarter billion dollars in lost economic output” triggered by cancelled conferences over the next two to three years, the $86 million in lost wages, 2,800 lost jobs and the more than $1 million Arizona has already spent on legal fees in defending SB 1070.

On the other hand, Georgians with a tan will probably have no problem finding empty space in their wallets to keep their proof of citizenship in case of questioning.

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  • Claudia Phillips

    As a Georgian, I am shocked, upset, and angry at the passage of this horrible anti-immigration bill. It is very distressing to be living in this state at this time.

  • Chester Seale

    This just proves that the Republicans are not fiscally responsible and are doing everything they can to make Georgia fail.
    I’m angry but not shocked because racism is still alive and well in Georgia. We will lose Tourism and businesses, but he Republicans don’t care about that.
    Everybody remember this in 2012 and vote them all out.

  • al lopez

    The passage of this bill shows that most of our legislators are narrow minded at best. At worst …….

  • Pingback: Georgia as the New Arizona | VivirLatino()

  • Corina Florez

    The passage of this outrageous law is the work of not narrow minded but absent minded people. Georgia will suffer greatly. Food will spoil in the field, your pretty lawn will no longer be kept, your nanny’s will be deported, your restaurants will have no waiters or cook, and our highways and construction will take three times as long to build. Mr. Deal lied when he said he would make a better Georgia, he will bring the economy of this state to a horrendous halt. Good Luck Mr. Deal, You have a long road ahead of you before you actually earn the real title of governor. This is also a good lesson to all the voters that wanted a change, all of sudden the change will affect your businesses, farms, and most of all your livelyhood.

  • pete

    All of you are very critical. Yet none of you have offered an alternative. The status quo is not sustainable.