The most ambitious crackdown on illegal immigration ever attempted by the Georgia Legislature cruised to easy approval in the Senate on Wednesday, even as opponents derided it as a mean-spirited political ploy that will accomplish little.
Senators capped a low-key, two-hour debate with a 40-13 vote in favor of the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, also known as Senate Bill 529, which now moves to the House.
Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), who sponsored the legislation, told his colleagues: “I wish the federal government had protected our borders, but they have failed.”
The bill seeks to ensure that illegal immigrants do not receive taxpayer-provided benefits to which they are not entitled, prevent employers from claiming wages paid to undocumented workers as a tax deduction and require law enforcement officials to notify federal immigration authorities when they have arrested an illegal immigrant.
Proponents argue the bill will level the playing field for businesses and make Georgia less appealing to immigrants who break the law to enter the United States.
Critics counter it is a ham-handed effort by a state trying to assume duties the Constitution assigns to the federal government.
“Georgia voters need to look behind the curtain and see this is not going to do anything to curb illegal immigration,” Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. “It’s only going to spread fear in the immigrant community, and it’s going to hurt business.”
Tisha Tallman, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Atlanta office, told about 100 people at a morning Capitol rally that the bill was “unfair, unjust and inequitable.” The group will likely file a court challenge if the bill becomes law, she said.