Many local agencies ignore new Georgia immigration law

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ATLANTA — One year after Georgia lawmakers passed a tough immigration law, a newspaper investigation found many city and county governments are not in compliance.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that state officials are preparing a mass mailing this week to remind governments that their state funding could be in jeopardy.

The law aims to block illegal immigrants from taking jobs from U.S. citizens and stop taxpayer support for government contractors who aren’t authorized to work in the United States.

It requires most private employers, government agencies and contractors to use a federal work authorization program called E-Verify to be sure workers are authorized to work in the United States. But few governments have filed the required reports on time and could lose money that helps maintain jails, manage development and boost employment.

State records show that of the 2,324 local and state government agencies tracked by the state, 1,176 did not file reports by the Dec. 31 deadline.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey, a Republi­can from Peachtree City who wrote the law, said he’s monitoring its implementation.

“I don’t think anyone that worked on (it) believed there would be universal compliance in the relatively short time it has been in effect, given how sweeping and comprehensive the changes are in that law,” Ramsey said.

Some government officials say the law is confusing and difficult to follow. The newspaper found that it is impossible for the state to confirm that private employers are using E-Verify because of state and federal record-keeping.

The state also can’t truly enforce the law because there is no money for performance audits of compliance.

“It is a new law,” said Sandy Springs spokeswoman Sharon Kraun. “And as with anything new, there is learning you gain as you move forward.”

Parts of the law took effect July 1, 2011, but other parts are tied up in federal appeals court in Atlanta after civil and immigrants’ rights groups filed a lawsuit.

Private companies employ the vast majority of workers in Georgia, with governments making up about 15 percent of the workforce. In all, nearly 19,000 public and private employers are enrolled in E-Verify, but it’s tough to confirm who is enrolled because state and federal government databases make cross-checking impossible.

“Obviously, they ought to be doing spot checks, audits, something,” said Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based organization that advocates for tighter immigration controls. “This is why a federal (nationwide) E-Verify requirement is necessary. The state measures just aren’t going to be enough.”


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