National reform needed instead of immigration bill, officials say

By Blake Aued, Athens Banner-Herald, November 16, 2005

Calling proposed state legislation to bar illegal immigrants from attending public schools or receiving other government services "worse than Jim Crow," experts on immigration say national reform is the only solution to curbing illegal immigration without crippling the economy.

House Resolution 256, sponsored by a group of north Georgia lawmakers who've seen a massive influx of Hispanics into area carpet mills and poultry plants in the past decade, would deny illegal immigrants access to public education and health care, and require local police to enforce immigration laws.

If it passes the state legislature and is approved by voters next year, it would create a permanent state of discrimination worse than what blacks faced prior to the 1960s, said Paul vom Eigen, an economist with the Mexican-American Legal and Education Defense Fund.

"At least then, people of color had access to education," even if only at often inferior and segregated schools, vom Eigen said.

Vom Eigen, Atlanta immigration lawyer Charles Kuck and state Rep. Jane Kidd, D-Athens, explained proposed state and federal laws dealing with immigration to a crowd of about 80 at a Monday night forum sponsored by the Federation of Neighborhoods, a coalition of about two dozen neighborhoods and other interest groups.

Kidd called HR 256 "mean-spirited" and "punitive," and said that many Georgia businesses couldn't operate without [illegal] immigrant workers....

Comprehensive federal reform is the only solution to dealing with immigration, but Congress didn't want to tackle the issue until recently, Kuck said.

"Illegal immigration is a benefit to the federal government," he said. "All the costs associated with illegal immigration fall on the states."...

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