New Georgia Immigration Law

By Rob Coven | June 19, 2011

It seems clear that the new Georgia immigration law is drumming up fear in the Georgia Latino community.  Unfortunately many Latinos, even those legally in the country, are on the run to other states.  My sources in the local community are telling me that local Latino barrios are seeing an exodus of tenants who are on the move from to Georgia to states as far away as Washington.  Since many on the run don’t speak English, they really don’t know what the law says.  Fear tends to make them run first and figure it out later, if at all.

goergia immigration lawLike most immigration motivated laws, unconscious discrimination is in play.  Law makers will tell you that the motive of the new law is to reduce the cost to service undocumented residents that state government provides.  They say there isn’t the funding these days in the Georgia state government to help those who are not legal residents.

The shortsightedness of this argument is that Georgia’s estimated 450,000 illegal immigrants provide much more revenue for the government than costs.  These 450,000 people work the fields and poultry processing plants throughout Georgia, yes, in fact, doing work that others legally in the country won’t do.  So farmers and businessmen are scurrying to figure out how to harvest their crops and move their products to market.  The net effect will certainly cost the state much more in revenues which trickle to them from the business generated by the productivity of these workers.  If Georgia can’t harvest their crops and process their product, businesses will struggle to get their products to market.   How much will this cost Georgia?

So politicians who passed the law must speak to the real effect of the law.  Clearly it sits well with their conservative Georgia voters who wear the genetic lineage of their slave owner ancestors.  This is what gets them re-elected and that’s all they really want.   Those who do the math will find the law may cost the much state more than they save.

Hopefully the federal government will finally have the guts to step in and resolve this issue nationwide.  Until then there may be chaos in the Latino community.  Even with those who are in the country legally.

The highlights of the new law are outline below:

Starting July 1:

• Representatives of local and state law enforcement agencies will be able to arrest illegal immigrants and take them to state and federal jails.

• Any person who “while committing another criminal offense, knowingly and intentionally transports or moves an illegal alien in a motor vehicle” may face fines of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

• The state Agriculture Department will begin to study creating a new guest-worker program for Georgia farms. Many Georgia farmers say they face a shortage of workers to harvest their crops, a shortage they say this law has already made worse because even legal Hispanics will not come to the state because they fear harassment.

• Those caught using fake identification to get a job face up to 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

• The state will create an Immigration Enforcement Review Board, with three members appointed by the governor and two each by the speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor. Each member will be appointed to a two-year term. The board will investigate any complaints filed by legally registered voters that state or local government officials are failing to enforce state immigration law. The board may impose remedial actions on those officials it finds guilty, including fines of up to $5,000.

• Government officials found violating state laws forcing local governments and state government agencies to use the federal E-Verify program, which helps determine if new workers have the government’s permission to work in this country, could face fines of up to $10,000 and could be removed from office.

Starting Jan. 1, 2012:

• State and local government agencies must force those applying for public benefits to provide at least one “secure and verifiable” ID. The state attorney general’s office must post a list of acceptable documents on its website by Aug. 1, 2011. Consular identification cards will not be accepted, such as those issued by Mexican consulates to that country’s citizens residing outside of Mexico.

• Firms with 500 or more employees must use the federal E-Verify system.

Businesses with 100 or more employees must use E-Verify beginning on July 1, 2012. And firms with at least 11 employees must use E-Verify beginning on July 1, 2013.

Rob Coven is president and founder of Market To Latinos an online, Spanish language based, marketing and consulting company. He has been working and living with the Spanish speaking and Latino community since 1984. He writes blogs and shares important articles and research on the Spanish speaking population in the U.S. and abroad. Call Rob at 706-850-7555 or info@MarketToLatinos.com.

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