By Matthew S.L. Cate
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue this afternoon signed into law a controversial proposal that directs taxpayer-funded benefits away from illegal immigrants and seeks to pressure employers to stop hiring illegal residents.
The Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act applies federal verification requirements to residents seeking Medicaid, food stamps and more. It also leverages state-level financial incentives and government contracts to discourage the hiring of illegal workers.
This bill makes it clear that Georgia is a welcoming state that wants to treat our guests with Southern hospitality, Gov. Perdue said in a written statement. But we cannot tolerate activity that distracts us from our ability to embrace those who come here legally.
The proposal, which made it through the General Assembly with about 70 percent approval, also requires police authorities to verify the status of everyone jailed on felony or DUI charges.
The legislation sparked several protests as state lawmakers debated it earlier this year. Opponents often called it a heartless attack on Hispanic workers who help prop up the states agricultural, construction and textile industries and said illegal immigration laws should be taken up only by Congress.
Policy analysts and others say the Georgia law is among the most comprehensive state-level initiative in the nation aimed to curb the influx of illegal immigrants, the number of whom in Georgia is estimated between 250,000 and 800,000.
E-mail Matthew S.L. Cate at firstname.lastname@example.org
See tomorrows Chattanooga Times Free Press for full coverage.