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Georgia Anti-Immigrant Law Institutes “Mini-McCarthy Panel”

by Mahwish Khan on 07/20/2011 at 8:52am

everifyElected officials in Georgia are ruining their economy with an extremely anti-immigrant law. They have already scared away migrant farm workers and are destroying their own agriculture industry. To make matters worse, the Governor thinks the best way to fix this agriculture dilemma is not to rethink the immigration law he’s signed into existence, but to [unsuccessfully] use parolees and fugitives to fill the farm jobs left behind by undocumented workers who, in light of the anti-immigrant sentiment, have decided to seek refuge elsewhere.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Bloomberg reports that a “first-of-its-kind Immigration Enforcement Review Board” is being established in this peachy, anti-immigrant state. It’s described by some as a “a mini-McCarthy panel:”

The first-of-its-kind Immigration Enforcement Review Board is part of a law that took effect July 1, making Georgia one of six states that have taken immigration enforcement duties into their own hands. To date, the law has provoked a federal lawsuit, a court injunction and a shortage of fruit and vegetable pickers in Georgia’s harvest season. The enforcement board’s job is to keep government officials in line.

“This is a radical privatization of government power,” said Charles Kuck, a lawyer who is part of a legal team challenging the law. “There was no evidence presented, not even anecdotal evidence, that there was a problem that needed to be solved.”

The board is unique to Georgia, not duplicated in the other five states – Arizona, Utah, Indiana, Alabama and South Carolina — that have enacted immigration laws, Kuck said.

Not distinguishing it from other anti-immigrant states is the fact that taxpayers in Georgia are going to bear the hefty costs of enforcing the legislation — and defending it. Though Georgia, for sure, thinks that it has thought its way through that one. 

“The committee would examine complaints from registered Georgia voters about public bodies’ failure to use either the E-Verify system or the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database,” according to the Bloomberg article“Georgia mayors, county commissioners and even business-license clerks may face $5,000 fines from a panel of state-sanctioned volunteers empowered to investigate complaints about compliance with a new immigration law.”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what E-Verify is, here’s a primer: E-Verify is a tool that would require employers to “electronically verify” that their employees are eligible to work using a flawed federal database. One of its many problems is that it fails to identify undocumented immigrants over 50% of the time. Instead, it has often identified naturalized citizens as those who are unauthorized to work.  However, none of that really matters to the Republicans supporting it in Congress. The system’s primary purpose is to help the GOP achieve its goal of mass deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. The bill faces mark-up in Congress within the next couple of weeks.

Georgia has already seen how inefficient the system really is. Bloomberg reports:

Most local governments already comply with the E-Verify part of the law, said Amy Henderson, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Municipal Association.

The verification requirement for public-benefit applicants has been more problematic, she said, calling the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database “cumbersome.”

“I’ll be honest,” she said. “Some of them have found it difficult to register.”

Yet Georgia persists, and the disconnect between the GOP legislators who passed the law and their constituents is apparent.  In a little town a few hours outside of Atlanta, Margaret Newkirk, the author of the Bloomberg piece, interviews the town’s sole employee regarding E-Verify:

“I couldn’t get the system to work,” Riegle said. “I did all the things I was supposed to do. It is horrible. These little towns, we have so many mandates coming out of Atlanta, our workload has doubled…I can’t afford to get my little town fined,” she said.

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