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Immigration debate comes to Gainesville
Senate Special Committee on Immigration and Georgia's Economy chose city for second public hearing
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Immigration public hearing

What: Business, political and community leaders and faith based organizations are invited to share their observations on the impact of immigration and the economy in their communities.
Where: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St. SW, Gainesville
When: 7-9 p.m. Tuesday
Cost: Free

A state Senate immigration committee will be in Gainesville on Tuesday to get an idea of how people in the business community feel about immigration bills currently in the legislature.

The Senate Special Committee on Immigration and Georgia's Economy chose the Georgia Mountains Center for its second public hearing in the state.

"Because Gainesville has such a large immigrant population and a large poultry industry that I think uses a lot of that immigrant labor, that was one of the reasons we chose to go to Gainesville because we figured it was an area where businesses would in fact be impacted, for good or bad, by any of this type of legislation," said Sen. Curt Thompson, D-Tucker, the chairman of the committee.

Thompson said the committee held a similar hearing in Warner Robins last month and plans to hold hearings in Savannah and Lawrenceville as well.

Thompson said anyone is welcome at the hearing and doesn't have to testify to attend. But he hopes that people will share their situations and provide the senators with a better idea of how immigration legislation would affect people.

"I'm hoping we'll get some folks who are living it rather than lobbying it," Thompson said. "My hope and prayer is that some of the folks who are really going to be affected by the current situation or by the proposal will show up."

Thompson said the committee is there to listen to the Gainesville community and does not have its mind made up on the issue.

"We don't have a particular bill we're for or against," Thompson said.

The Georgia legislature is considering legislation that would strengthen the enforcement of federal immigration programs like E-Verify, a database through which business owners can use to check if new employees are eligible to work in the U.S.; give incentives to state and local police to participate in federal immigration enforcement programs such as 287(g), which allows local officials to check the immigration status of those arrested for other crimes; and punishes people who encourage illegal immigrants to enter Georgia and then transport or conceal them when they arrive.

Arizona came under fire last year for adopting similar legislation, with several states now following suit. The most controversial aspects of the law were blocked by a federal judge after the law was challenged by the Obama administration.