State senator speaks to group on immigration

By Aaron Baca, Marietta Daily Journal, May 31, 2006

MARIETTA - The General Assembly's leading proponent of new laws to clamp down on illegal immigration in Georgia blasted an immigration reform bill the U.S. Senate passed last week, calling federal reform efforts an "embarrassment" to the country.

Republican Woodstock state Sen. Chip Rogers, the author of a sweeping set of laws passed in March to deny illegal immigrants access to some state services and benefits, described efforts to reform federal immigration policy as reckless and ineffective.

The Senate's immigration bill, which is headed for summertime compromise talks with the U.S. House, will cost the United States "tens of billions of dollars" and will ultimately lead to unwanted amnesty for millions of undocumented aliens already living here, Rogers said.

"It's a travesty. One that we will never recover from," said Rogers, who spoke before Involved Mariettans Planning Actively for the City of Tomorrow, or IMPACT, which gathered Tuesday evening at City Hall.

IMPACT leaders invited Rogers to explain his anti-illegal immigration bill, which Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law early in April.

"Members of IMPACT have consistently identified illegal immigration as one of their biggest concerns in Marietta," said IMPACT President Laura Van Mever.

Ms. Van Mever said IMPACT has issued no official stance on immigration issues, but asked Rogers to speak so that IMPACT members could learn more about the issue.

Rogers' bill, the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, clears the way for Georgia police agencies to gain national accreditation permitting enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The law reiterates existing laws to block illegal immigrants from receiving certain state and federal benefits that require verification of recipients' legal status.

The law also requires the state and its contractors to verify the legal status of new employees and removes tax breaks for any business that knowingly hires undocumented workers.

IMPACT members quizzed Rogers about enforcement of the state's new law and whether the bill passed in the Senate last week might negate Georgia's own immigration reforms.

"(Federal reforms) could potentially negate a great deal of our law," Rogers said.

Enforcement by local police, he said, may one day expand as police agencies send officers to receive special training.

Some IMPACT members said they support the state's new laws but doubted its overall impact on illegal immigration in Georgia.

"I just don't think it will ever be enforced," said Marietta's Judy Mansfield.

Ms. Mansfield criticized illegal immigrants for running up huge tabs for emergency services in Georgia and state officials for not preventing immigrants from receiving benefits.

"When you look at all the services we can't pay for now for people like our seniors who need them, it just makes me angry," she said.

Esther Green, another Marietta resident at Tuesday's meeting, said she believes local officials often prefer not to enforce the law.

"Look at Smyrna and how many illegals have moved in there," Ms. Green said. "It really bothers me. I'm a taxpayer.

During his presentation, Rogers claimed Georgia's new laws are tougher than any other state in the nation.

"I don't want Georgia to become the next Arizona or New Mexico," Rogers said, referring to actions taken by governors in those Mexican-border states to declare states of emergency because of rampant illegal immigration.

Rogers said provisions in the federal bill to offer eventual citizenship to some illegal immigrants hinders reform efforts.

Similar so-called "amnesty" provisions were put in place 20 years ago the last time Congress passed immigration reform laws. An estimated 3 million immigrants were granted legal status under those provisions, Rogers said.

If similar concessions are made to illegal immigrants now, as many as 20 million to 40 million illegal immigrants could pour into the United States, Rogers said.

"You can't repeat the past and expect different results," Rogers said.

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