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State legislators introduce illegal immigration bills

Special Joint Committee on Immigration Reform created in September

POSTED: January 26, 2011 10:56 p.m.

State legislators aren't wasting any time before jumping into the hot topics, with several bills about illegal immigration introduced in both chambers this week.

Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, introduced the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 on Wednesday. It would allow state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.

Ramsey is co-chairman of the Special Joint Committee on Immigration Reform. State Sen. Jack Murphy, the other co-chairman, plans to file similar legislation soon.

House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle created the committee in September to investigate the immigration question. The committee hasn't issued a report or any findings, and Ramsey's legislation doesn't represent recommendations from the group.

"The study committee, in its very early stages, was created to look at all sides of the immigration issue," said Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, one of the committee members. "We had individuals and groups that were strongly for and against immigration, as well as others who just wanted to provide what they considered to be pertinent and valuable information to help the committee form policy."

The illegal immigration debate is just starting, and Miller is still picking apart the details.

"There are challenges on both sides of the issue, and both sides have passionate and committed individuals who have a deep understanding of it," Miller said Wednesday. "It's going to get tougher as legislation moves forward."

Miller, who attended meetings with Murphy at the Capitol on Wednesday, said his fellow senator didn't talk about upcoming legislation.

"There will be multiple pieces of legislation introduced, and what's important is what gets passed," Miller said. "We've got to structure legislation that is fair to all concerned and addresses the societal, educational and economic needs of Georgia."

Ramsey's 18-page bill, similar to the laws passed in Arizona, could face national opposition. Federal officials have argued Arizona's law is unconstitutional and would burden law enforcement agencies that could focus on more violent crimes.

Other legislators introduced bills on Tuesday aimed at barring illegal immigrants from attending the state's colleges and collecting workers' compensation. On Wednesday, Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, introduced a bill that would require driver's license tests to be given in English.

"Since all of our road signs are in English, it is a public safety issue," he said Wednesday.

Associated Press contributed to this story.



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