“Arizona-style” immigration bill heads to Nathan Deal’s desk

Well, I’ve been worried about this, but for a while this week it looked like legislative dysfunction would prevent the Georgia house and senate from agreeing on a tough new bill to go after illegal immigrants — undocumented workers — in the state.

But, yesterday, the state senate relented to the house demands that employers with more than 10 employees be mandated to use the federal E-Verify program. They tempered that only by giving employers “30 days to correct any ‘good faith’ violations before they face penalties for not complying with the E-Verify requirement,” according to the AJC. That grace period to me seems likely to open the door to all sorts of other potential problems, such as farmers simply lying to investigators (who are going to spend a lot of time driving around rural Georgia if the bill survives the inevitable and expensive court challenges) or trying to do things like hiring 9 workers instead of 10 or hiring more than 10 but letting them all go on day 29.

Today’s AJC piece about the passage of the bill contains a good general description of it for those who have not followed it closely. I would strongly recommend reading some of the expert comments appended to the end of the piece, in particular:

“We know this bill is not going to create a single job. When has the General Assembly become so anti-economic development? If Sunday alcohol sales is what they hang their hat on for economic development, that’s pretty sad.”

— Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council. The council argued the bill would have the greatest impact on farmers who would be forced to buy new equipment to comply with the law


“I travel to Germany six times a year on economic development missions and I have also gone on economic development missions to other places in the world and I am absolutely sure it will harm our reputation. I have seen what the reaction was throughout the world to the law in Arizona. The world will react in same way to the law in Georgia.”

— Teri A. Simmons, business recruiter at Atlanta-based law firm Arnall Golden Gregory, who thinks the immigration bill harms Georgia’s international business reputation.

In an earlier post, I tried to debunk some of the myths about the economic impact of illegal immigrants. That post also cites and links to arguments of conservatives who opposed the bill. The larger economic impact might be the one Teri Simmons notes in that last quote. With the passage of this bill, Georgia has hurt its national and international reputation. Don’t be surprised to see canceled conventions and less interest in the state from multinational corporations, especially those that work closely with the Spanish-speaking world.

So will Governor Deal sign it? Having run on a platform that included just such a bill, he pretty much has to. At the same time, he has been weirdly silent about the shape of the bill through the messy legislative process. Perhaps he, like some fellow Republicans, have had second thoughts because of the potential extreme negative impact on farming in Georgia. Or perhaps he’d rather see the fate of the Arizona bill in the federal courts before pushing Georgia along the same path. Deal might have wished for the current bill simply to vanish, but now that it’s in front of him, I think he has little choice but so sign it. And then let’s watch all the unintended — but entirely predictable — consequences unfold.

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