Yesterday Matt Ramsey introduced yet another substitute for the Senate passed version of HB 87. His substitute eviscerated the work done by the Senate on this bill, which had ameliorated some of its more unconstitutional and illegal provisions, and eliminated the business destroying E-Verify requirement. In speaking to a reporter after his substitute passed the House, effectively without debate or even time to review his substitute, Rep. Ramsey said this:
“The Senate… took out many of the provisions that we worked very hard on as part of the comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011,” Ramsey told the House moments before its vote. “They made some curious changes at best. What this amendment does is it restores the well-thought-out, well-reasoned legislation that we passed several weeks ago out of the House.”
What Rep. Ramsey did not tell the reporter is that more TWO DOZEN CHANGES to the original HB 87 are now in this bill, and none of them have had a public hearing! Perhaps the next question the reporters should ask Rep. Ramsey is “why did you lie to us about what is in your bill?”
Let’s take a look at some of the substantive changes Rep. Ramsey has made, again, to HB 87. I say again, because Rep. Ramsey did this same thing, and lied about it, two weeks ago, when he substituted a different version of HB 87 into the Senate passed SB 40 that his committee voted on. At that time, he created a lower evidence standard for criminal convictions, and created a new crime in the bill! He also said then that there were no changes to the bill from the original version the House had passed. And yet we discovered significant additions and changes to that version of the bill.
Rather than take the newest changes in order of the section they appear, let’s look at Rep. Ramsey’s changes in order of magnitude. Rep. Ramsey’s new version of HB 87 now has the mandatory E-Verify requirement back in, but this time he watered it down to apply it only to companies who hire more than 10 full time employees! At a public hearing on this matter Rep. Ramsey emphatically stated that the law should apply to all employers who have have at least 5 employees, and an exemption should not be made to expand that number. What changed his mind? And, why did he now decide to make it full time employees only? An even more significant change to this section of the bill (Section 12), is that the employer when applying for his business license must attest how many employees it has as of January 1 of that year! Think about it, if the company hires employees during the year, lays them off at year end, has NO employees (or less than 10) on January 1, then rehires on January 2, they have effectively and legally avoided complying with this law and enrolling in E-Verify. Clearly, Rep. Ramsey is now playing games with the public about his position on E-Verify, something he calls:
one of the most important provisions of his bill because many illegal immigrants come to Georgia to find work.
Rep. Ramsey, if this is the most important provision in your bill, why have you changed it so significantly that is it basically useless, failed to actually have any public hearings on this massive change in strategy, and then lied to the press about it?
The changes do not stop there. The next significiant change is the creation of an “Immigration Enforcement Review Board” in the new Section 20. Simply put, there has been nothing about this Board discussed EVER, in any public setting, or in any review of this version HB 87. Rep. Ramsey, why did you lie about this? Is this something that the radical anti-immigrant groups urged you to put into the bill? This Board members are appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker. The Board is attached to the Department of Audits and the folks serving receive no compensation. But clearly, creating an entire new Board is going to cost the State of Georgia money. Rep. Ramsey, where is the fiscal statement on this provision of your bill? Heck, where is the legally required Fiscal Note?
Rep. Ramsey gives the Board the authority to investigate and review any complaint with respect to all actions of a public agency or employee who violates the sections of the state law pertaining to the government’s use of E-Verify, Save, and the creation of sanctuary policies. Rep. Ramsey has created this Board to substitute for the Attorney General, something the Senate had intelligently and thoughtfully done, to investigate these same complaints. This Board will serve as a sort of Star Chamber to hunt down and investigate and punish folks, using a preponderance of the evidence standard, who it believes have violated the law. How can a Board of private citizens do this without judicial process? Good question. Perhaps someone should ask Rep. Ramsey to answer it!
This new version of HB 87 also takes the extraordinary step in Section 3 of violating the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution of the United States. In Section 3. Rep. Ramsey declines to recognize as valid IDs, the driver’s licenses of New Mexico, Washington and Utah, because those states do not check the immigration status of folks before giving them a driver”s license. Wow! Talk about an easy target of litigation. We really should be thanking Rep. Ramsey, rather than pointing out the obvious problem with legislators voting for a bill that they KNOW is unconstitutional. Does this mean that anyone driving a car in Georgia with New Mexico, Washington or Utah plates is now going to be a target of the police for one of their “show me your papers” stops?
In Sections 7 and 8, Rep. Ramsey also eliminated the Senate passed versions which limited the criminal liability for Transporting, Harboring and Inducing an Alien to enter Georgia to those who also were committing another felony offense. Now, the language is back to the Rameseyesque “criminal violations,” which in Georgia include traffic offenses as those are punishable as misdemeanors, as a predicate act for these typically federal offenses.
Rep. Ramsey also tried to say that he exempted Churches from the potential charges of Harboring, Transporting or Inducing an Alien, but he either did not read the language he inserted into the bill, did not understand it from a legal perspective, or simply lied about it. He has now exempted
“an employer transporting an employee who was lawfully hired,” and “a person providing privately funded social services.”
Rep. Ramsey does not, however, provide a definition for “lawfully hired,” or for “privately funded social services.” One thing we can be sure of is that Churches are NOT protected by this language. Churches are NOT social service organizations, they are religions. They come under different IRS tax and federal and state rules, and can in no way be considered protected by this language. You have to begin to wonder, what does Rep. Ramsey have against churches that he will not exempt them from what most other people would consider Christian acts of service? Keep in mind as well that the vast majority of social service groups actually also receive SOME government funding. Rep. Ramsey has to know this. He votes on giving public dollars to privately run organizations all the time. So, he also has to know that this latter provision likely applies to no one and no group.
In Section 5 of the new HB 87, Rep Ramsey also single handedly, and without public hearing or rationale, increases the penalty for a first offense of the newly created “Working with Fake Papers” crime to be 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine! Keep in mind that the punishment for paying for sex with a 16 year old to only 5 years in prison, punishment the Georgia Legislature just passed last month! Admittedly, this language now conflicts with the punishment in the preceding paragraph in the same section, but you get the point. Rep. Ramsey was not truthful when he said that there had been public hearings on this bill, and he was not truthful when he said that he had just restored what was in the HB 87 before it went to the Senate.
There are another dozen changes to this bill. We could sit here all day and ask Rep. Ramsey why he is afraid to publicly debate and discuss this bill and why he attacks the Senate for their efforts to restore some semblance of sanity to an Arizona Style Bill on Steroids. Perhaps the answer to the question as to why Rep. Ramsey lied about his newest version of HB 87 lies in the fact that if he told the truth, HB 87 would not be passed. So many other states have said no to this Arizona style bill in light of the crystal clear negative impact passing such a bill will have on the state that does so. And, in light of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling affirming the 4 key parts of the Arizona law as unconstitutional (parts which are in HB 87), it is non-sensical that the Georgia Legislature would pass HB 87 as it is currently written. Let’s see if any of our legislators take the time to read this bill and see it for what it really is–an attack on Georgia, its economy, its citizens and its reputation. Hopefully, they will not let one man destroy all that Georgia has done to make itself a welcoming place for businesses and people.