TV cameras were rolling today as Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 87 in a ceremony at the Capitol, one day before taking off for a trade mission to Europe.
The bill’s chief sponsor, state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, has denied charges that the legislation mirrors Arizona’s infamous immigration bill, and to an important degree he’s right. The new law allows Georgia law enforcement to check immigration status only of those actually being detained as criminal suspects. That’s a more narrowly defined authority than that granted under Arizona law and should reduce the danger of police profiling of Hispanic Americans. Nonetheless, a constitutional challenge of the entire bill still seems inevitable.
On the other hand, the penalties to be assessed against illegal immigrants — up to 15 years for using fake identification to get a job here, for example — are almost cartoonish in their severity, while provisions that supposedly attempt to get tough on business owners who knowingly employ illegal labor are extremely mild and contain no enforcement mechanism. The bill targets the powerless while protecting the powerful, an approach that has failed everywhere it has been tried because as long as the jobs are available, the people will come to fill them.
In other words, it is not a serious attempt to address a serious problem, it is a serious attempt to look tough for purposes of political gain. On those grounds, it is a success.
And it is now law in Georgia, at least temporarily.
– Jay Bookman