Thursday, 4/14 a New Immigration Bill (HB87) was passed by Georgia Senate. In order to go into effect, Governor Nathan Deal will have to sing it, which he most likely will do in the next few days. The Bill requires businesses to check if their employees have the legal right to work in the country. It also gives permission to the law enforcement agents to check the immigration status of people who have been detained for other reasons.
With unemployment sill above 10% in the state, the Bill finds great support among the largely conservative population in the state. Illegal immigrants and their children are often blamed for overcrowding the public school system, taking jobs from legal residents, and increasing the violence and crime on the streets of Georgia.
Those who oppose the law state that it would lead to racial profiling, since a great majority of immigrants in Georgia are Latinos. It is very likely that the law and its enforcement will also face lengthy court battles that could be costly for the state.
It is obvious that the Bill aims to stop illegal immigrants from coming into the state and force economically the ones that are here to leave. Will it achieve the desired effect though?
In my opinion a small percentage of illegal immigrants will probably leave the state and go either to less restrictive states or back to their country. This will have a further negative effect on the local real estate market. Some businesses will lose some of their employees and will probably have to hire legal residents. This could lead to higher wages and ultimately higher prices for the consumer.
The economic effects from the new bill however are not the greatest concern.
What should worry us is the effect the Bill could have on the crime in the State. People erroneously believe that stricter measures will lead to less crime, while the opposite will probably be true. The Bill reminds me of the effect Prohibition laws have on cities like Chicago. It was the "illegal" status of alcohol that produced people like Al Capone.
Making it hard to get a job will not stop people from looking for jobs. On the contrary, it would create a whole economy in the shade, with its own "Don Pedro" king, corrupt officials and numerous victims. The new opportunities will create new businesses. When several years ago Georgia stopped giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, suddenly new Spanish speaking taxi services sprang up in the areas with high concentration of Latino population. The lack of driver's licences did not send them back home, as were the legislators hoping. Many illegals continued to go to work, school, or the store by simply using the cheap taxi services.
Some immigrant communities in Georgia have seen huge increases in their population. Currently there are more Spanish speaking people in Georgia than African Americans. These communities are creating their own businesses, servicing their own people and functioning quite well on the periphery of the main economy. The new law will just open the door for more sophisticated crimes, identity thefts and shady businesses.
What Georgia needs, as well as the whole country, is a reasonable way to make these people legal, not further criminalize them and force them into bigger and darker corners.