HB-87 and its sister bill SB-40 are attempting to implement similar immigration legislation in the State of Georgia as the highly controversial and court condemned Arizona legislation that caused an uproar in that state- including blacklisting by the national conventions resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in state revenues.
HB-87 seeks, among other things, to provide the authority and to encourage law enforcement officers to use routine traffic stops and other legal detainments of citizens to attempt to verify legal status in any case where an officer has “reasonable suspicion” or in the senate bill “reasonable cause” to suspect that the individual might not be a legal U.S. citizen.
Opponents of the new legislation including many public officials, community leaders, citizens and legal immigrants firmly believe that such a law would lead to the abuse of traffic stops and routine detentions for both unreasonable search and seizures as well as clear racial profiling, even though the legislation –in seeming contradiction of itself- excludes race, color or national origin as factors in determining “reasonable suspicion.”
This leaves Georgians to question what exactly would warrant “reasonable suspicion” since the bills make no attempt to define the term or to provide any examples of what it might include within the text.
Proponents of the bill praise it for being a step in reclaiming U.S. citizens right to U.S. job opportunities in Georgia that many feel have been “stolen” from American workers by the influx of illegal immigrants, particularly from Mexico.
The main section of the House Bill in question reads as follows from Article 5:
(b) During any stop of a criminal suspect by a law enforcement officer, where the officer has probable cause to believe that such suspect has committed a criminal offense, including any traffic offense, if, during the lawful detention of such suspect, the officer develops reasonable suspicion to also suspect that such person is an illegal alien, then the officer shall, when reasonably practicable, make an attempt to determine the immigration status of such suspect.
The Bill goes on to state a few lines down:
(e) A law enforcement officer shall not consider race, color, or national origin in implementing the requirements of this Code section except to the extent permitted by the Constitutions of Georgia and of the United States.
The Bill also lists acceptable forms of documentation an officer can ask for in order to prove citizenship or legal status such as a valid license or state I.D. card.
In the event that nationality and legal residence cannot be established, the person can be arrested and taken into custody until legal status can be confirmed or until the person can be turned over to federal authorities.
The bill would also require all employers to use the E-Verify system in hiring its employees. E-Verify is a national database that tells emploers whether or not a potential employee is legally allowed to work in the U.S.
The documented verification of employers use of E-Verify would be required to obtain or renew business licenses in the state.
Besides the legal implications of the bill, another big topic that is being re-raised amidst the controversy is why and how the illegal immigration problem has come to exist in the first place.
Many Americans feel that illegal’s have stolen jobs from American workers, adding to the rising unemployment rates nationally.
Others feel that these illegal immigrants have filled a crucial void in the economy left by Americans who refused to labor at low wages in undesirable jobs, which has ultimately kept crucial food and agricultural industries in America alive.
The argument starting to rage now among economist is that these industries are required to keep the prices of end products low in order to survive among the national influx of foreign-based goods that are produced at even lower costs in parts of the world where wage laws don’t exist at all.
How can we remove the illegal workforce that is allowing U.S. and Georgia industries to produce low cost food and products without raising wages for American workers which would in turn raise the final prices for the products?
A common belief circulating, especially among older citizens, is that Americans just haven’t done their parts in competing against other countries by sacrificing the “high-life” sought by common laborers who prefer to live beyond their means.
These common laborers are seeking a quality of life that has previously been available only to those with higher educations and specialized skills in leadership positions and entrepreneurs.
“Nobody wants to be a peach picker anymore,” said a former Peach County resident, “it’s hard and miserable work, out in the sun. Used to be that folks were proud to get a job in a peach field because it was work and it drove the engine of the American economy. Now folks are lazy and everyone wants to make more money than they are worth to their employers. The Mexicans are proud to have a job and feed their families. They work hard and produce a lot and are more valuable in the fields than the few locals that take the jobs for a summer and then quit.”
Regardless of the how and why, the questions that need to be asked and are being asked now is:
What will happen to Georgia industries that require hard labor, currently filled by illegal immigrants, if this bill passes and we chase them all away? Will Americans suddenly be willing to work in hot and labor-intensive positions at wages economically necessary to produce low cost food products and other products that can compete in a foreign-import low price dominated U.S. market?
If not, will companies have to suddenly raise wages in order to accommodate demanding American workers which means transferring the cost into the end prices Americans will have to pay in the store?
Will these same American consumers and laborers then be willing to pay two or three times as much money for an American made product that is sitting right next to a foreign made product at Wal-Mart to support this system?
Last but not least, will the American laborers who then have to pay twice as much for food not demand the industries producing it to raise their wages even more to afford the increasing prices?
You can read the full HB 87 legislation here