Our neighbors to the south in Georgia have taken a commonsense step in the fight against costly illegal immigration.
Here are some key provisions of a law recently enacted by legislators in Georgia and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal:
• Law enforcement has authority to check the immigration status of some criminal suspects and to take them into custody if it is determined that they are in the United States illegally.
• Depending upon the circumstances, punishments may be imposed on people who transport or harbor a person they know is an illegal alien.
• Presenting fake documents to obtain a job will now be a felony.
• Employers with more than 10 workers will have to use a computer verification system to check the immigration status of newly hired employees.
• Valid identification must be presented by anyone applying for food stamps, housing aid or other public benefits.
The provisions will be phased in, some within a couple of months, some by mid-2013.
In the absence of strong federal enforcement of our immigration laws - and amid appalling calls to legalize millions of illegal aliens nationwide - it is understandable that Georgia and other states would take steps to get this problem in hand.
Deal pointed out the federal government's lax enforcement when he signed the bill.
"While I believe immigration is an issue that can ideally be identified and addressed - and should be addressed - at the federal level, this legislation I believe is a responsible step forward in the absence of federal action," he said.
In fact, as if to highlight how little fear illegal aliens have that they may actually be deported, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that dozens of protesters gathered outside Deal's office recently, shouting, "Undocumented and unafraid!"
What opponents of firm enforcement of immigration laws fail to realize is that there is very little leftover money in Georgia's budget. It is appalling that legal residents of the Peach State or any other state should have to spend their limited tax dollars on educational and other benefits for those who are in the United States illegally.
Neither can anyone claim that illegal aliens are only taking jobs that U.S. citizens and legal immigrants reject. The April unemployment rate in Georgia was a painful 9.9 percent. Citizens and legal immigrants in Georgia are struggling and would willingly accept many of the jobs that illegal aliens now perform.
As Capt. Wes Lynch of the Sheriff's Office in Whitfield County, Ga., told the Times Free Press, "There's a lot of people that are hurting right now for work, and the old argument that illegal immigrants only do jobs that no U.S. citizen would do just doesn't work, especially in this economy."
We see nothing unduly burdensome in Georgia's new law. Yet it will undoubtedly be challenged in court, in the hope that an activist judge will overturn it. And opponents of the law are predictably calling for an economic boycott of Georgia.
Activists are free to protest if they like, but Georgia's governor and lawmakers have a duty to defend their state's interests. By enacting a law to fight illegal immigration, lawmakers have shown they take that duty seriously.