Governor Deal signs Georgia’s new immigration law — a curious mix of draconian and toothless

Well Governor Deal finally signed HB 87 into law today. There’s a good write up and summary of the bill here.

I’m opposed to the new law for a mix of Constitutional, economic, and basic human rights reasons. I talked about some of my reasoning here, so I won’t try to recap that post.

Various civil rights organizations are already planning organized responses, so expect calls right away for convention boycotts and the like.

Among the draconian pieces of the law are these, as described by the AJC:

Local and state police will be empowered to arrest illegal immigrants and take them to state and federal jails.

People who use fake identification to get a job in Georgia could face up to 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

I know some people hope that such harsh measures will a) make undocumented workers leave the state or b) pressure the federal government to enact stricter laws. If those laws are enforced, many workers will leave the state, which would have disastrous economic consequences for a state still reeling in many respects from the recession. And the federal government when the presidency and Congress were controlled by Republicans a few years ago couldn’t move ahead on tougher immigration reform. Why should we think one state like Georgia, which is of no electoral importance at all to the White House, is going to propel change?

Among the toothless provisions are the very slow phasing in of the E-Verify system, which businesses of 11 to 99 employees don’t have to use until 2013 and the complete exemption of businesses employing 10 or fewer people. So, many employers will find ways to dance around the law at no risk to themselves, while the workers with fake documents they are employing could face up to 15 years in prison.