Bill would put lid - on services to illegal aliens

Marietta Daily Journal Online, September 15, 2005

Let's face it: A thriving state like Georgia, and especially an economic engine like metro Atlanta, probably will always be "home" to a certain number of illegal immigrants. But if the federal government is going to continue to allow our southern border to resemble a sieve, the least that Georgia can do is to make our state and local communities less of a magnet. While there surely will always be plenty of low-paying jobs here for unskilled laborers, and sadly, no shortage of rundown houses and apartments for them to live in, it makes sense for government to do what can be done to reduce other incentives.

That's the philosophy behind Senate Bill 170 introduced by state Sen. Chip Rogers (R-North Cobb) that Republican legislative leaders declared Tuesday will be a top priority in next year's legislative session. The bill would deny taxpayer-funded benefits to those who are not in this country legally.

State and local governments still would have to provide K-12 education and emergency medical care to all comers, regardless of citizenship status, as required by federal law.

Rogers' bill would apply to all illegal immigrants, regardless of country of origin.

Georgia has one of the fastest-growing populations in the country of illegal immigrants, with an estimated 350,000 here now.

Rogers' bill would establish a list of valid forms of identification that would be acceptable for proof of residency status. The easily obtained "Matricula Consular," issued by the Mexican Consulate to illegal immigrants unable to obtain other documentation, would not be included on the list.

Meanwhile, a companion bill sponsored by Rogers would prohibit illegal immigrants and/or their children from enrolling in any of the state's public colleges and universities. That only makes sense. Admission into most Georgia colleges is very competitive these days, and why should a legal Georgia resident whose parents are taxpayers here lose his or her shot at higher education to a student who is not a legal resident and whose parents pay little, if anything, in the way of taxes?

"We don't want Georgia to be a magnet for people to come here simply to live off taxpayer-funded services," said senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) at a news conference on Tuesday with Rogers. "We cannot afford to take care of everybody. Our priorities should be on Georgia's neediest citizens - (and) our neighbors, our friends who are hurting - the evacuees from the Gulf. Those should all be a higher priority than somebody who has broken the law and come to this country illegally."

Added Rogers, "We would like to feed and clothe and educate everybody in the world, but the reality is we have a limited amount of resources. Georgians have big hearts and are willing to give a lot of money to a lot of people, but you have to qualify for those benefits."

And that's the way it should be. Passage of Rogers' bill would not in itself reverse the flood tide of illegal immigrants that has washed up in metro Atlanta. But it would be a step toward making our communities and our state at least somewhat less attractive than nearby states that have yet to enact such measures. And as such, it merits serious consideration by the Legislature in next year's session.

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