Jekyll Island – Whether the children of illegal immigrants should be allowed into Georgia universities wasn’t a topic at a pair of debates among candidates for governor on Friday.
But whether Georgia should adopt a replica of the Arizona law – to identify and deport illegal immigrants – was a major topic among both Republicans and Democrats.
The debates were sponsored by the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
As you might expect, all five candidates in the GOP debate,held first, favored adoption of a similar measure. (Karen Handel was absent.)
The entire answer of state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine:
Eric Johnson said he’d go a step further, requiring all hospitals and public schools to ascertain the citizenship of the people they serve. The former state senator from Savannah said he would then sue the federal government to get back money spent on illegals.
He would also crack down on businesses that hire illegal aliens. The second time a business is found guilty of hiring undocumented workers, he said, “they would lose their business license permanently.”
Former congressman Nathan Deal endorsed the Arizona law, but thought Johnson’s ideas are a step too far:
“I think what we need to do is to be able to have law enforcement at every level be able to assist in the enforcement of immigration laws. We only have four counties in the state of Georgia that are participating in the 287(g) program. But I don’t think we need to burden teachers with being immigration enforcement officers. It should remain a law enforcement function.”
It’s not clear where he obtained his figures, but state Sen. Jeff Chapman of Brunswick declared that Georgia has “more illegal aliens than the state of Arizona.”
The picture was far less uniform among the six Democrats in the debate that followed. Former Gov. Roy Barnes and House Minority Leader DuBose Porter expressed the most nuanced positions.
Said David Poythress, former commander of the Georgia National Guard:
“I will not support that because I think it’s unconstitutional. You cannot empower a police officer simply to stop a person at random on the street, and then make them prove who they are. The Soviet Union used to have what they called internal passports. I don’t think America wants that. This is a national problem and it’s got to be solved at the border.”
Porter wouldn’t endorse the Arizona approach – and said that Georgia’s legislation would have to be modified:
“We have a different situation in Georgia than what Arizona has. Certainly, if you’re not here legally, you shouldn’t be here. We would have to come up with something very different than that, because we’re in a different geographic location. What we have a problem with are people here illegally getting jobs that should be going to those who are legal here.”
“There are some parts that I can go along with. Local governments enforce federal laws all the time. Police officers arrest folks for federal laws all the time. So I don’t have any problem with that part. Now, you have to be careful not to be racial profiling. I think there’s a balance there.
“But let me tell you this. This seems to be the dominant issue over on the Republican side. It’s a little distracting. I’ll be quite frank with y’all. The army of Georgia is not big enough to march to the Rio Grande river, stopping folks from coming across. I might could stop those Alabamians from swimming across the Chattahoochee. You have to push for some sort of national solution.”
Said Attorney General Thurbert Baker:
“Last time I checked, Georgia did not border any foreign country. This is a national issue that requires a national solution. “