Murphy: Immigration reform bill offers tweak to existing laws

By Sen. Jack Murphy

My colleague, Sen. Bill Heath, possibly said it best. Georgians, he said, are known world wide for our hospitality and common sense. But when we look at the rising rates of illegal aliens and the staggering financial burden it places on our residents, it is time for our common sense to take precedence over our hospitality.

This week, I am submitting legislation intended to make it more difficult for illegal aliens to find work in Georgia. We can no longer allow illegal aliens to skip in line and enter our country when others are working through the system that permits some foreign workers to come here. We can no longer allow illegal aliens to take jobs at construction sites, at restaurants, at manufacturing plants while Georgians sit home wishing they could work.

The first section of my bill is simply an extension of existing Georgia law. Currently, companies who contract with state agencies are required to use the federal E-Verify system to make sure their employees are allowed to work in the United States. Failure to do so results in a fine. The change in law would make subcontractors responsible for their own E-Verify checks. It also would fine state employees who knowingly violate the policy and could remove agency heads who ignore our laws.

The bill takes measures to ensure private companies likewise do not hire illegal aliens. It requires Georgia businesses to run new employees through the E-Verify system. This quick and easy process comes at no cost. The first violation would result in a warning. Subsequent violations could result in fines or the revocation of business licenses. This is not a witch hunt. If a business owner shows the violation was inadvertent, the fine or suspension can be waived.

Georgia’s agricultural industry, which relies on legal foreign workers for seasonal jobs, already must verify the legal status of workers, per federal regulation. My bill, therefore, excludes agricultural businesses from the E-Verify provision.

I also included in my bill measures that allow local and state law enforcement officers to better enforce existing laws.

The federal government requires legal immigrants to carry visas or work papers. My bill allows law officers to ask someone for proof of legal immigration status if that person is stopped with probably cause for a crime. A driver’s license, a state-issued identification card or similar identification would suffice. If an immigrant cannot provide that proof, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor. But, just as in the case of a driver who does not have proof of insurance, that immigrant can later show proof of legal status and the charge will be dropped. Suspects thought to be in the country illegally will be transported to federal officials. It is their duty to handle immigration violation cases.

As a safeguard against profiling, my bill specifically states that officers cannot use race, color or national origin as indicators that a person is in this country illegally. Likewise, my bill specifically prevents law enforcement from checking the immigration status of crime victims or crime witnesses.

It is important to point out that submitting a bill is the first step in a long process of debate. I hope the law that results from this year’s immigration reform bills will help make Georgia a less hospitable place for illegal aliens. It’s only fair that we do this for the immigrants who come here legally, for the Georgians who are out of work and for the taxpayers.

Sen. Jack Murphy serves as Co-Chairman of the Joint House Senate Immigration Reform Committee. He represents the 27th Senate District, which includes portions of Cherokee and Forsyth counties.

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