Georgia state lawmakers are taking up what may be the most contentious issue since the voter identification bill - wide-ranging legislation to crack down on illegal immigration.
The Senate's Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee is holding hearings this week on a bill sponsored by Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock.
Rogers' Senate Bill 529 would bar businesses from claiming compensation for illegal immigrants as a business expense; prohibit state contractors from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants; require verification of eligibility for adults who apply for public benefits; and toughen penalties for human trafficking.
Critics of the bill charge that the state shouldn't get involved enforcing immigration laws - that it's essentially the job of the federal government. The critics, of course, are right - except that the feds aren't doing the job. Consequently, more and more states, however reluctantly, are taking up the slack even though it adds to the burdens of employers and local and state law enforcement.
In fact, S.B. 529 and the voter ID bill have something in common. They are both designed to combat fraud and cheating. No one should have a problem with that - least of all hard-working, taxpaying, law-abiding Georgians.
One complaint does have merit, though. Rogers' legislation rightfully holds businesses accountable when they knowingly hire illegals - but they must not be turned into proxy law enforcers either.
Employers are ill-equipped to play policeman and many, to avoid a hassle, might deal with the issue by simply not hiring minorities. Discriminating against legal minorities - be they U.S. citizens or green-card guest workers - is just as unlawful as hiring illegals. It must not happen.
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