Top Georgia officials are searching for a way to address the immigration issue in the state.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston created a 14-member joint committee on immigration reform on Wednesday, said Cagle’s spokesman Ben Fry.
The panel’s aim is to create legislation that “stems the flow of illegal immigration activity in Georgia,” he said.
“The hope is that the committee would look at this during the fall and have solid solutions for the next legislative session,” Fry said. “I know they are eager to take this up.”
Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, and Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, will serve as co-chairmen of the Special Joint Committee on Immigration Reform.
“A respect for the rule of law is one of the basic founding tenets of our state and nation,” Cagle said. “If the federal government continues to neglect its responsibility to enforce the law, we’re going to use every option at our disposal to lessen its impact in Georgia. The members of this committee will take a broad, in-depth look at ways to confront this problem and offer concrete solutions to improve the regulations we have on the books already.”
This “comprehensive” search into current laws will include Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act — the last immigration law passed in Georgia in 2006 — which requires citizenship verification for people using the state’s public services to ensure they are legally eligible to receive those services. It also requires citizenship verification of state employees and employers with state contracts and subcontracts.
“They’ll look at ways to strengthen and improve those,” Fry said. “They’ll look at the example of other states and try to figure out what the best practices might be.”
Lieutenant governor candidate Carol Porter responded Thursday to Cagle’s role in the committee formation. Although she doesn’t disagree with the idea, she thinks it should have happened much sooner.
“After four do-nothing years in the second-highest state office, pandering to get elected is obviously why my opponent has chosen — four weeks before an election — that it’s time to do something about Georgia’s immigration issues,” Porter said.
“He’s had his chance to enforce federal immigration laws — four years worth of chances. But now, when the stakes are high, and his re-election fate hangs in the balance, he decides to listen to Georgians.”
Porter agreed the federal government hasn’t adequately answered the question of illegal immigration in some states.
“What we are witnessing is the breaking point, and now Arizona is the first state to force needed action,” she said.
“Right now, Georgia has more illegal immigrants than Arizona, and if we don’t see some resolution as soon as possible from Washington, individual states will be forced to handle it on their own. I think it will be unfortunate and a continued waste of taxpayer time and money to have 50 individual state policies.”
Porter hopes the committee achieves concrete results.
“Cagle spent eight years as a state senator and has had four years as lieutenant governor to address this impact on local governments and has chosen to do nothing. Now at the 11th hour he appoints yet another study committee to avoid the accountability of a real decision,” she said. “Georgians have had all the study they need on this topic. The time for action is here ... Georgia cannot afford the status quo.”