Originally created 03/08/06

Democrats target businesses that violate immigration law



ATLANTA - In a bid to make businesses responsible for complying with immigration law, Senate Democrats propose hefty fines for employers who fail to verify workers' IDs, and 100 investigators to enforce immigration policy.

The bill's backers hope the plan can be tacked onto a Republican-sponsored immigration bill pending in the Senate, which lawmakers are set to consider today.

The proposal takes aim at businesses that flout Georgia law by accepting falsified documents from illegal immigrants. Companies that employ more than 20 workers could be penalized $12,800 per worker and per violation, a fine that would double on the second offense.

"We believe there's a universe of employers who look at these documents and know that they're false," said state Sen. Kasim Reed, the bill's author.

The bill would also create a unit of 100 investigators in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to enforce immigration law, which could cost roughly $3 million.

Tipsters could call a toll-free number to complain about violations. Illegal workers could also use the line to report improper treatment, said Mr. Reed, D-Atlanta.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown of Macon said the legislation will be offered as an amendment to the hotly debated Republican measure.

The GOP bill, introduced by state Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, would deny some state benefits to adult illegal immigrants and use the tax code to penalize employers with illegal workers on their payrolls.

It also requires jailers to check whether the people they arrest are in the country legally; sets up "human trafficking" penalties that mirror federal law; and toughens penalties for people who sell false documents to illegal immigrants.

Democrats say their plan goes a step farther by imposing harsher penalties on the businesses that lure illegal workers to Georgia in the first place.

The proposal, introduced just days before a crucial legislative deadline, likely faces a tough hurdle in the Republican-controlled Senate.