Recently the Alabama Attorney General called on the Alabama State Legislature to repeal parts of Alabama’s horrid anti-immigration law (HB 56), because of the “unintended” consequences of the bill (frankly, what happened was not unintended). Because of the similarity between the two laws, Georgia’s Speaker of the House, David Ralston was asked whether Georgia Legislature would repeal part or all of HB 87, Georgia own anti-immigration law. HB 87 has caused almost a half a billion dollars in damage to the Georgia economy (along with untold suffering in Georgia’s immigrant communities) without any noted or reported positive effect.
Speaker Ralston plainly stated that the Georgia Legislature would NOT do anything to repeal HB87. While it understandable why a politician would not admit that a pet bill he shepherded and pushed through the state legislature was simply bad law, it is also clear that Speaker Ralston is facing a challenge on his RIGHT in the upcoming elections. To admit that he wanted HB87 repealed in whole or in part because of the tremendous negative effects on the Georgia economy would significantly strengthen his own Tea Party challenger.
We know why Speaker Ralston will not move to repeal HB 87 bill through the legislature, but here is here is why Republicans in the Georgia state legislature need to repeal HB 87:
1. The Federal District Court in Georgia has already said that two key provisions in the bill, Sections 7 (transporting/harboring), and Section 8 (show me your papers) are preempted by federal law and thus unconstitutional. Attorneys familiar with the law are in agreement (except for the attorney general) that the 11th Circuit will uphold the District Court. The staying of these two provisions (the only significant provisions of HB 87 apart from the unfounded mandates to state political entities on SAVE, and mandatory E-Verify for employers with more than 10 employees on January 1 each year), caused most undocumented immigrants to remain in Georgia, but to go deeper “underground.”
2. The Supreme Court has decided to hear the case involving the anti-immigration laws in Arizona, laws which are remarkably similar to Georgia’s HB 87. Decades of Supreme Court precedent support an upholding of the Court of Appeals decision striking down the key parts of the Arizona law. Acting now, before the Supreme Court orders the law stricken shows Georgia as a national leader in ensuring that the laws it enacts are constitutional and just.
2. Secure Communities, the Obama administration’s much maligned enforcement tool is in effect in ALL Georgia counties, which means that anyone arrested by Georgia law enforcement has an ICE hold placed upon them if they are wanted for immigration violations by ICE. This tool, more than anything the state legislature did, has more impact on the day to day lives of foreign nationals in Georgia.
3. Georgia’s farm crops, from its blackberries and blueberries to tomatoes and onions have rotted in the fields because migrant farm workers bypassed the state upon passage of HB 87. Losses have so far totaled more than $390 million in the agricultural sector alone. We can expect similar losses this year, unless growers change what they plant to less labor intensive (and thus less lucrative) crops, reducing the overall tax base for taxes paid into state coffers.
4. HB 87 has caused massive labor shortages not only in the agricultural sector, but in the restaurant sector, with expected losses to total more than $1 billion dollars. Service employees are difficult to find and even more difficult to keep among the native born population. What do you tell the restaurant or hotel owner who cannot find prep cooks, dishwashers, maids and servers? Close your restaurant or hotel?
5. Economic Development efforts are ongoing in Georgia to attract foreign investment and to create jobs in our state. Georgia is LAST or near last in job creation during Governor Deals first year in office. HB 87 does nothing to attract business, and as Alabama has learned, passing strong anti-immigration laws does wonders for driving foreign investment away. On the other hand, repealing HB 87 will send a STRONG message that Georgia is open for business and will do nothing to take away from the aggressive enforcement of our immigration laws currently being undertaken by the Obama Administration.
6. The argument used by supporters of HB 87, that the federal government is not enforcing the immigration laws, is a lie. The Obama Administration can be better called the Deportation Administration. Never before have so many undocumented immigrants been deported in so short a time! Not in 40 years have so few undocumented immigrant come into the United States. Strong border enforcement, Secure Communities, and a focus on immigrants (legal and undocumented) with criminal violations have led to a lessening of undocumented immigration in the United States. Nothing about HB 87 has led to a lessening of undocumented immigration in the United States.
7. HB 87 was completely unfunded. Every statute, every regulation arising out of each statute, every requirement for counties and cities to carry out was unfunded. Every supposed benefit promised to law enforcement for compliance with HB 87 was unfunded. The leadership in the Legislature talks about unfunded mandates from the federal government. HB 87 is an unfunded mandate to the political subdivisions of Georgia, and is costing those cities and counties hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply, with no visible or tangible result. Prior to its passage, and since its passage, no state legislator has been able to point to ANY money saved because of HB 87. The only evidence that exists for HB 87 is that it is costing the citizens of Georgia tax dollars with no evident benefit.
These seven reasons for repealing HB 87 all involve legalities and facts. There is another reason to repeal HB 87 — It is the right thing to do. HB 87 has destroyed Georgia families, hurt Georgia business, torn apart Georgia communities, and caused an intense fear of law enforcement for all immigrants in Georgia, regardless of their immigration status. Some have argued that the real purpose of HB 87 was to scare people into leaving the state. The reality is that after the District Court judge stayed Sections 7 and 8, immigrants stopped leaving Georgia. Now it is time to say that immigration enforcement is the federal government’s job, and Georgia is going to let the federal government do it. Let’s bring some forward thinking to the immigration debate, starting with a repeal of HB 87.