Georgia governor signs sweeping immigration law
By Karen Jacobs 1 hour, 8 minutes ago
ATLANTA (Reuters) - The state of Georgia approved a
sweeping measure on Monday to crack down on illegal
immigrants, while in a sign of the national division
on the issue, Arizona's governor vetoed a bill that
would have allowed undocumented workers to be
prosecuted as trespassers.
The moves come as the federal government and states
consider how to deal with an estimated 11 million to
12 million undocumented workers while immigrants, many
of whom are Hispanic, are displaying their political
power through mass demonstrations in cities across the
The Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act,
signed into law by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue,
denies many state services paid for by taxpayers to
people who are in the United States illegally.
It also forces contractors doing business with the
state to verify the legal status of new workers, and
requires police to notify immigration officials if
people charged with crimes are illegal immigrants.
"It's our responsibility to ensure that our famous
Georgia hospitality is not abused, that our taxpayers
are not taken advantage of and that our citizens are
protected," Perdue said before signing the law.
But Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, backed
by key law enforcement officials, vetoed the bill in
her state, the nation's hot spot for illegal crossing
of the roughly 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border,
saying there were no resources to pay police and
prosecutors for an increased burden.
Under the proposal, first-time offenders would have
faced a misdemeanor charge and up to six months in
jail. A second offense would have been a felony,
punishable by up to one year in jail.
Arizona officials also were concerned about its effect
in the community.
"There is a real concern that crimes will go
unreported by immigrants for fear that they would be
turned into federal agents," said Wendy Balazik, a
spokeswoman for the 20,000-member International
Association of Chiefs of Police. "Law enforcement
would lose valuable information."
But state Rep. Russell Pearce said the governor needs
to take a stand to slow the flow into Arizona.
"It is a federal responsibility, it is everyone's
responsibility," said Pearce, a Republican behind
several bills targeting immigrants. "When are we going
to wake up and start enforcing the law?"
Other provisions of the Georgia law prohibit employers
from claiming a tax deduction for wages of $600 or
more paid to undocumented workers, impose prison terms
for human trafficking and limit the services
commercial companies can provide to illegal
Hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated at
rallies in major U.S. cities in recent weeks demanding
rights for illegal immigrants in the United States.
"It's a punitive bill," said Sara Gonzalez, president
and chief executive of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of
Commerce. "This is a very complicated issue, and I
don't see any good coming out of this."
Outside the Georgia Capitol, a few demonstrators
cheered when word spread that the immigration bill had
been signed. The measure had garnered overwhelming
support in both houses of Georgia's
"If you are not a U.S. citizen, you should not receive
a U.S. benefit," said Steve Bray, a Georgia resident
who was waving a U.S. flag and said he supports legal
(Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix)