A new system to detect and report potential illegal immigrants is up and running, but only a handful of cities and counties in Northwest Georgia will be able to use it.
All state and local entities that administer public benefits - such as business licenses, food stamps and unemployment insurance - are required to check an applicant's immigration status through the use of the Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlement, or SAVE, system. But only about 30 percent of cities and counties in the state are signed up to use it, records show.
State law says agencies and governments that administer public benefits must verify applicants' legal status. Applicants are asked to sign an affidavit saying whether they are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, or are in the United States legally under some type of visa.
If the applicant indicates that he or she is not a U.S. citizen nor a legal permanent resident, officials must run his information through the SAVE program.
By Jan. 1, 2011, all agencies and governments must report the type of public benefits administered and compile a list of all benefits given that weren't verified through SAVE, said Michael Bush, director of the Office of Research in the Department of Community Affairs, who created the reporting system.
The department last week began sending e-mails advising state and local governments and agencies about the new reporting system, Bush said.
There is no data available on the number of illegal immigrants who had access to benefits for which they didn't qualify.
Summerville, Ga., City Clerk Jill Durham said she has been giving out affidavits for those who want to renew their business licenses. So far, Durham said, all affidavits returned have been marked as a U.S. citizen applicant.