While a proposed immigration enforcement measure died in the Florida Legislature, Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, signed immigration enforcement bill HB87 into law on Friday, the same week president Obama called for action on immigration reform and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., reintroduced the DREAM Act.

In a letter to Gov. Deal by the national Latino organization Somos Republicans states that the bill is clearly unconstitutional like Arizona’s Senate bill 1070, which has cost that states taxpayers $4 million in legal fees and well over $100 million in lost business.

According to Numbers USA, an organization that supports the concept of “attrition though enforcement” (the idea that unauthorized immigrants will leave if immigration laws are more strictly enforced), under the Georgia bill:

  • Local and state police will be empowered to arrest illegal immigrants and take them to state and federal jails.
  • People who use fake identification to get a job in Georgia could face up to 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
  • A seven-member Immigration Enforcement Review Board would be established to investigate complaints about local and state government officials not enforcing state immigration-related laws.
  • Government officials who violate state laws requiring cities, counties and state government agencies to use E-Verify could face fines of up to $10,000 and removal from office.

Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, said in a press release that the law was an extreme and harsh measure that will likely be blocked in the courts.  The statement adds that Deal “ignored calls from Georgia’s agricultural, immigrant, restaurant, tourism, landscaping, business and law enforcement leadership to veto this bill.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman points out that despite the more narrowly defined authority that should reduce the danger of police profiling of Hispanic Americans, a constitutional challenge of the entire bill is still all but inevitable.

Bookman adds that “the penalties to be assessed against illegal immigrants — up to 15 years for using fake identification to get a job here, for example — are almost cartoonish in their severity, while provisions that supposedly attempt to get tough on business owners who knowingly employ illegal labor are extremely mild and contain no enforcement mechanism. The bill targets the powerless while protecting the powerful, an approach that has failed everywhere it has been tried because as long as the jobs are available, the people will come to fill them.”

Immigration Impact adds that Georgia joins Arizona and Utah, states which have passed harsh immigration laws and are also currently facing costly legal challenges, but the measure is now law, at least for the time being.

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