Deal signs immigration bill
Last year, Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal vowed to crack down on illegal immigration.
"We will take our stand and do what Arizona has done,” Deal said at one candidates forum, referring to that Western state"s immigration legislation.
Democratic candidate Roy Barnes, who lost to Deal in the general election, had also vowed to back an Arizona-style law.
On Friday, Gov. Deal signed House Bill 87. The hotly debated legislation creates requirements for many Georgia businesses to ensure new hires are eligible to work in the United States. It also empowers police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects.
Georgia has among the nation"s fastest-growing populations of illegal immigrants, some research shows, with more illegal immigrants than Arizona.
Deal, a Republican, was under heavy pressure not to sign the bill, which the Georgia Legislature passed last month. Some business owners, particularly in the influential agricultural industry, worry that the legislation will harm their trade since they rely in part on migrant workers. Some Latino groups and civil libertarians argued HB 87 will result in civil rights violations by law enforcement. Other groups have threatened economic boycotts of the Peach State.
Deal deflected the criticism and signed the bill anyway.
So is the Georgia law an Arizona-style piece of legislation? The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials called one version of HB 87 a "copycat” version of the Arizona measure, Senate Bill 1070. We investigated the claim in March and rated it Half-True. HB 87"s sponsor, Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, said he studied SB 1070 and attempted to craft his bill to withstand some of the legal challenges aimed at the Arizona legislation.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has previously reviewed HB 87 and SB 1070 and found some similarities. Both, for example, authorize state and local police to verify the immigration status of suspects when they have "probable cause" to believe they have committed a criminal offense, including any traffic violation.
"It is the kind of legislation I promised on the campaign, and the General Assembly has delivered it, and I intend to sign it, " Deal said after HB 87 was passed.
Considering the similarities between the two measures, the Georgia legislation has some important elements that make it an "Arizona-style” immigration law.
We rate this as a campaign Promise Kept.
Georgia House Bill 87
Arizona Senate Bill 1070
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "GOP governor debate puts focus on immigration,” May 22, 2010
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Exclusive: Deal tells AJC he intends to sign immigration bill,” April 15, 2011
PolitiFact Georgia, "Immigration bill foes label legislation an Arizona ‘copycat," " March 7, 2011
Arizona-style immigration bills inch forward
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal spoke often during last year"s campaign about cracking down on illegal immigration if he was elected.
In recent weeks, Republicans in both chambers of the Georgia Legislature have crafted bills aimed at capturing more of the estimated 425,000 illegal immigrants living in the state. Although Georgia is the nation"s ninth-highest-populated state, one group estimated earlier this month that the Peach State has the seventh-largest number of illegal immigrants.
House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40 both have some elements of Arizona"s hotly debated Senate Bill 1070, such as a proposal that would allow law enforcement to arrest someone with "probable cause” that the person may be an illegal immigrant. A federal judge in Arizona struck down that element of that state"s law last year. Some Georgia lawmakers raised questions during a hearing last week about whether some sections of HB 87, such as the probable cause provision, could withstand a legal challenge.
The Georgia bills also contain provisions that would impose fines and propose jail time for individuals who help illegal immigrants get into the state. They also include a measure that would require employers to check the citizenship status of their workers.
Deal"s press secretary, Stephanie Mayfield, told us in an e-mail that the governor "remains 100 percent committed to signing legislation that allows local governments to work with federal authorities and that will protect Georgia taxpayers and enforce the rule of law.”
And for these specific bills, Mayfield added: "We"re talking about bills that are likely to change dramatically throughout the legislative session. Stay tuned.”
We will. Because of Deal"s interest in passing tougher immigration legislation and the strong interest in the bills being proposed, we are curious to see the progress of this effort and rate this as a promise In The Works.
E-mail from Stephanie Mayfield, press secretary to Gov. Nathan Deal, Feb. 4, 2011
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Immigration bill"s sponsor revising it with eye on courts,” Feb. 4, 2011
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Report may affect immigrant debate; Georgia ranks 7th for illegal immigrants,” Feb. 2, 2011
The Washington Post, "Arizona immigration law SB 1070 -- Judge blocks some sections," July 29, 2010