The AJC’s Jeremy Redmon reports today on some of the immigration-related measures that state Republican leaders are likely to push in the legislative session that begins next week. This outline of the main legislative thrust, from Rep. Matt Ramsey (a Peachtree City Republican and co-chairman of the Joint House and Senate Study Committee on Immigration Reform), strikes me as a sensible way to start:
* Ways to encourage more communities to apply to join a federal immigration enforcement program called 287(g). Through the program, local police officers and sheriff’s deputies are given the power to question people about whether they are in the country legally and issue arrest warrants, prepare charging documents, and detain and transport people for immigration violations;
* Measures to toughen an existing Georgia law requiring state and local government contractors to ensure their employees are eligible to legally work in the United States. The legislation could also include incentives for other private employees to participate in E-Verify, a federal work authorization program;
* Provisions to ensure the identification people use to get public benefits in Georgia are “secure and verifiable.”
So, two measures to push better enforcement of federal immigration law, and a third one that applies strictly to state aid programs. It will be difficult for any interest groups or activists to get much public traction with opposition to such steps.
It’s hard to say at this point whether we’ll see the passage of a bill mirroring the Arizona law that gained national attention last year, but I don’t know that I would bet on it.
Ramsey said he and his colleagues are still studying the law, and a spokesman for Nathan Deal said the governor-elect “is aware of the litigation involving the Arizona law, and he wants to make sure that Georgia is able to narrowly draft legislation that will meet federal guidelines so that we can avoid a lawsuit while protecting Georgia taxpayers.”
That sounds like caution to me, and it’s important here to distinguish between the two goals of passing a law like Arizona’s: Stepping up the enforcement of federal law where federal authorities have failed to do so, and spurring Congress to act on the issue.
On the first goal, broader use of the 287(g) program is a good initial step, even if it may not prove to be a sufficient one. On the second goal, now that Arizona has broken the ice, I think it’s reasonable for states like Georgia to try to add to the groundswell from the states without attracting a lawsuit from the Department of Justice. Given that the heavy lifting on curtailing illegal immigration will have to be done on a national scale, our state can afford to take an incremental approach — so long as it adds to the pressure on Congress to act.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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