Immigration law gets cheers from its critics

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ATLANTA - While immigrant rights groups loudly protested a broad new Georgia law that denies many state benefits to those here illegally, there is one provision buried within the legislation that they had quietly supported.

Many of the bill's most vocal critics gathered Thursday at the Latin American Association's Atlanta office to celebrate a provision in the bill that cracks down on human trafficking.

"Many of us had problems with the bill; it's terrible in many respects," said Stephanie Davis, the policy adviser for Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. "But we fought hard for this portion of it."

Even critics cheered the portion that ramps up penalties for those found guilty of trafficking people. It's partly because many victims are immigrants, said Alia El-Sawi, who leads the Georgia Rescue and Restore Coalition, a group that tries to help victims.

The law, which took effect in July, makes human trafficking a felony and sets a minimum prison sentence at 10 years. It also gives authorities more leeway to prosecute pimps and johns, lowering the standard they must meet to prove suspects are guilty.

"It takes the burden off the victim," Atlanta Police Sgt. Ernest Britton, who heads the city's child exploitation task force.

"You don't necessarily need the testimony of the victim to make the case. I don't have to have a child tell me very intimate, very personal details," he said. "With the new law, we can put together a solid case without having to put the victim through this traumatic experience."

Immigrant advocacy groups blasted Senate Bill 529 last year, saying the provisions unfairly targeted immigrants - illegal or not.

One section that has drawn criticism requires Georgia residents to prove their U.S. citizenship or legal status to get most public benefits, such as food stamps, Medicaid, or assistance for paying heating or cooling costs. Another requires that all public employers and contractors with more than 500 employees ensure that all new hires are eligible to work.

Ann Harris, a senior district attorney in suburban Atlanta's Cobb County, said she helped craft the bill because there was no clear state charge that targeted child traffickers. She said she mentioned the problem to Republican state Sen. Chip Rogers in 2005, and was surprised to see an anti-trafficking statute in his immigration bill months later.

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Reality
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Reality 08/17/07 - 05:49 am
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How many landscape businesses

How many landscape businesses have over 500 employees? All businesses should have to prove their employees are able to work here legally........

amazed1
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amazed1 08/17/07 - 08:37 am
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does this mean that all small

does this mean that all small businesses with less than 500 employees can hire illeagal immagrants?

rbk
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rbk 08/17/07 - 08:37 am
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I agree with Honest. Why

I agree with Honest. Why should it make a difference if there are 500 employees or one. If they are here illegally, they have broken our laws and should be deported, or at the very least, have a sponsor to pay their expenses and support them until they can support themselves and become citizens. The tax payer and social security should not have to pay their way.

LadyCisback
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LadyCisback 08/17/07 - 11:53 am
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I have nothing against them.

I have nothing against them. If they work for cheap and do it right they have a plus in my book!!

MyOpinion2
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MyOpinion2 08/17/07 - 12:47 pm
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It is about time something

It is about time something was done about illegals getting our tax dollers for their free benefits. Now they need to do something about children born here automatically being called legal and getting free schooling, etc. They really need to keep getting tougher on illegals. Illegals need to go back home and change their country, to make it a more desirable place to live. So their citizens will want to stay in their own country.

MAnd130630
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MAnd130630 08/17/07 - 05:39 pm
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I pay school taxes and I do

I pay school taxes and I do not have a child in school, so why am I also paying for someone who should not be here at all. What should really be looked at is...if I live in an apartment I don't have to pay school taxes...If I own a home I have to pay taxes for the kids who live in apartments. Regardless there are to many people getting a free ride on my tax dollar. Also the school board should spread the burden.

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