There is no country in the world more welcoming to immigrants than the United States of America. While we offer immigrants an opportunity to improve their employment, standard of living, and personal freedoms, perhaps the greatest opportunity we provide is a chance for immigrants to join the American melting pot of cultures and become American. Only in America does the stranger become, not simply a permanent resident, but one of us; every bit as American as the descendant of a Mayflower pilgrim.
With this great privilege, however, comes responsibility. The most basic responsibility, shared by us all, is to obey the law. The rule of law is the keystone that holds together our orderly society. Unfortunately, it is clear that we have experienced a complete breakdown of America’s immigration law.
Though long ignored by Washington, Georgia literally cannot afford to ignore the economic burden created by our unsecure borders. The economic downturn caused Georgia’s unemployment to rise to record highs and state revenues to plummet to new lows. We continue to see huge reductions to every segment of our state budget, meaning state services are stretched thinner than ever before. School classrooms are more crowded, our healthcare system is at its limits, transportation infrastructure is overburdened and our law enforcement community is working feverishly to do more work with fewer resources. It would be patently irresponsible not to address the issues posed by Georgia’s estimated 400,000- plus illegal aliens.
With this in mind and after a great deal of study, the members of the Special Committee on Immigration Reform are introducing the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.” This legislation includes numerous common-sense reforms aimed at addressing the social and economic consequences in Georgia resulting from the federal government’s inability to secure our nation’s borders.
This legislation will require the use of the federal E-Verify system by private employers in this state. This is a common sense step towards ensuring that available job opportunities are afforded only to our legal residents and that employers stay within existing law.
The legislation will also protect citizens from an unlawful burden on taxpayer-funded services by requiring the use of only secure and verifiable identification documents for any official purpose, including the dispensation of public benefits. Further, it will provide greater incentives for law enforcement agencies to apply for participation in federal partnerships that provide for faster and more efficient identification and transfer of illegal aliens.
In addition, the bill provides important new tools for law enforcement officers and provides them greater latitude in handling immigration issues during a lawful stop or detention. The bill also creates criminal penalties for any individual that encourages an illegal alien to come to Georgia or that transports or harbors an illegal alien once they arrive. This is not an exercise in scapegoating. Our nation’s illegal immigration crisis ultimately represents a failure of government. The federal government’s failure to secure our borders serves as an open invitation for illegal immigration. The employers who encourage and reward illegal immigration are certainly not blameless. Make no mistake: those here illegally did not act alone. However, violation of the law cannot be simply ignored, particularly when the enormous costs of those violations weighs so heavily on Georgia taxpayers during these difficult economic times.