Originally created 01/18/06

Georgia is focusing on illegals



ATLANTA - Gov. Sonny Perdue said Tuesday that people frustrated with the U.S. government's lack of immigration enforcement are the reason so many voters are looking to the state government to address the issue.

"I see illegal immigration as a challenge in the United States," he said, noting that there are federal limitations on what states can do regarding illegal immigration.

He told a group of reporters he would support a guest-worker program, or "registration process" by the federal government "if that's what they decide to do."

Several bills have already been introduced in the General Assembly focused on state efforts toward stemming the tide of undocumented workers in Georgia.

Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, is sponsoring four bills, all meant to discourage illegal immigration by limiting their access to government benefits.

Mr. Rogers said their aim was to "make sure we have a level playing field for all employers and employees."

Much of the debate in the Legislature centers on a constitutional amendment, House Resolution 256, which requires everyone to show proof of citizenship before receiving many state benefits and services, such as public health care and a college education.

Rep. Brian Thomas, D-Lilburn, told the press gathering that the only way to end immigration was to go after the businesses that employ illegal labor.

Mr. Thomas is the sponsor of the Georgia Legal Enforcement Act, or House Bill 961, which would require employers to fill out forms verifying that their employees are legal citizens. Failure to comply could result in the loss of a business license.