April 18, 2009

AJC: Want business license in Cherokee? Swear you’re legal…as the 2006 state law requires

Posted by D.A. King at 11:36 am - Email the author   Print This Post Print This Post  

Want business license in Cherokee? Swear you’re legal

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Cherokee County has become the latest metro county to keep business licenses limited to legal residents.

Last Monday, the county began requiring applicants for business licenses and renewals to sign an affidavit, saying they are in the U.S. legally.

At least two other jurisdictions — Cobb and Gwinnett — have imposed similar requirements based on the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act. That law, which was passed by the state Legislature in 2006, prohibits taxpayer funds from going to illegal workers.

Buzz Ahrens, chairman of the Cherokee County Commission, said the county didn’t have much option.

“The state Legislature said it would cut off all funding if we didn’t do it,” he said.

Elise Shore, regional counsel with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said not all legal experts agree that the law was meant to apply to business licenses.

Like the state law, “this is trying to send a message to the immigrant community that they’re not welcome,” Shore said.

She said the mandate of the affidavit also creates

“a more regulatory environment, a more difficult environment for businesses.”

D.A. King, a Marietta opponent of illegal immigration, applauded Cherokee’s decision to “partially” comply with the 2006 law by requiring the affidavit.

“I hope they will do all that is necessary to gain full compliance,” said King, who sued Cobb County in 2008 before the county started requiring business license applicants to show they are legal residents.

Cherokee County issues about 7,500 business licenses each year. But only a handful of businesspeople made application last week and had to sign the affidavit, which requires them to verify that they are a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident 18 or older, a qualified alien or non-immigrant under the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act.

Ana Silbernagel, who supervises the issuance of those licenses, said no one raised an eyebrow.

“We haven’t had any kind of response either way,” she said.

Late last year, Cherokee commissioners reopened the local illegal immigration debate with a draft ordinance that would make renters prove they’re here legally and threatened the business licenses of companies with undocumented workers.

Opponents and supporters packed one public hearing, but, since then, commissioners have taken no action and have said the ordinance remains “under review.”