By Charles H. Kuck

From the perspective of a lifelong Republican, I am always troubled when the State Legislature starts looking at ways to “fix” a problem by getting the government more involved in the lives of its citizens, rather than less involved. That is absolutely the case with the currently pending legislation on immigration. A detailed review of HB 87 and SB 40 reveals that these bills do not reform illegal immigration nor do they enforce laws related to illegal immigration. What they do is increase taxes on every citizen of Georgia by increasing government regulation, create unfunded mandates for every county, city, town, and village in Georgia, and create new private rights of action against every Georgia polity that will result in hundreds of lawsuits that will drain taxpayer coffers and result in little, if any real change on the issue of illegal immigration.

This type of legislation is popular because it gives the perception that the state is doing something, which the federal government is purportedly not doing—enforcing federal laws on illegal immigration. The problem with this notion is two-fold. First, the federal government is doing more than it has EVER done in enforcing the laws on undocumented immigration. The Obama Administration is spending literally billions of taxpayer dollars building fences, hiring border patrol agents, detaining undocumented immigrants and actually deported 400,000 people last year—a record. Second, these proposals do not create any greater degree of enforcement than already exists under current state and federal law.

By September 30, 2013, everyone arrested in Georgia is going to be run through the Secure Communities program, and if they are unlawfully present in the United States they are being held for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to pick up within 48 hours.

Without discussing the deleterious details of this program (DWH—Driving While Hispanic), it has resulted in a record number of cases filling our Immigration Court dockets.

So, if these bills do NOT reform immigration, do NOT effectively increase enforcement, and do NOT make Georgia safer, what will they do? They will increase taxes on Georgians, force cities and municipalities to hire previously unnecessary personnel, and make litigation lawyers smile.

These proposals have as their main thrust a desire to make Georgia like Arizona. The bill is designed to make it so hard to live as an undocumented immigrant in Georgia, that such immigrants will leave the state. If this bill accomplishes its purpose it could result in the departure of more than to one million people from the state, along with their tax dollars, investments, talent, and businesses.

There are also at least two provisions which will never be enforced, and which will be struck down as unconstitutional or preempted before they even go into effect, for the same reasons that similar provisions in the Arizona bill were struck down. Provisions dealing with unconstitutional police stops and non-definitions of reasonable cause beg for a judge to overturn this law. The authorizing of private lawsuits against government agencies looks like a lawyer’s full employment act, and business destroying mandates and penalties best dealt with under federal law will simply shut down businesses and cause greater unemployment.

These proposals are bad public policy and bad for Georgia. If our legislators really want to fix the immigration problem they should all take a day and go to Washington, D.C. and demand that Congress fix our immigration system, rather than trying to put a band-aid on a gaping shotgun wound.
Charles H. Kuck is an adjunct professor of Law at the University of Georgia, and a past national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Copyright (C) 2011 by Georgia Forum. 2/11