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Georgia’s Governor Signs Arizona-Style Immigration Enforcement Law

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed one of the nation’s toughest immigration measures into law at the state Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, May 13, 2011. The law, which is being compared to controversial laws in Arizona and Utah, passed both houses of the Georgia Legislature with overwhelming majorities and is expected to take effect on July 1.
The new state law gives police added authority to check the immigration status of certain suspects and to detain them under certain circumstances. It also creates stricter requirements for businesses hiring workers, makes it a felony to present false documents when applying for a job, and instills harsher punishments on anyone who harbors or employs illegal immigrants.
Mr. Deal told reporters that the law was a “responsible step forward” and that it passed because the federal government has failed to take action at a national level. He explained that the law makes everyone “play by the same rules.” It protects employers by ensuring that their workforce is comprised of legal workers and it protects illegal immigrants who live without the legal protections of citizens, which often makes them vulnerable to fraud and abuse.
Supporters of the law say it’s necessary because illegal immigrants are a drain on Georgia’s resources.  Opponents say it could lead to racial profiling and hurt Georgia’s economy.  Civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Southern Poverty Law Center are already considering lawsuits against the state.
Previously passed immigration laws in both Arizona and Utah are currently blocked by court injunctions, which are delaying implementation of them, in part or in whole, while their constitutionality is considered. However, Matthew L. Ramsey, a Republican state legislator and an author of the Georgia law, said it was written to withstand legal challenges by setting clear guidelines on what is expected of whom and when.
The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are 425,000 illegal immigrants in Georgia, giving the state the seventh highest illegal population in the country.  Alabama and South Carolina are currently considering similar immigration bills, which experts expect will pass this year.
Page Summary: New Georgia Immigration Law expected to take effect July 1, 2011.