In the midst of rising political tensions and the GOP’s increasingly stringent stance on illegal immigration, Georgia’s Republican-dominated legislature has taken steps to combat what they consider a pressing illegal immigration problem.
So far this year, the Senate has approved the cracking down of previously-mentioned “sanctuary cities” that don’t cooperate fully with federal immigration authorities, along with restrictions on driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants. On Monday, the Senate also passed a constitutional amendment making English Georgia’s official language.
Last week, the House advanced a bill that would bar immigrants without papers from serving on local commissions, councils and boards. The bill, HB 781, was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger, citing an unnamed California city which appointed two people without legal status to city panels.
The debate divided itself along political and ideological lines as its supporters claimed that “speaking out against the bill [amounts to] advocating that illegal immigrants should be allowed to sit as members of a government board, commission or authority.” On the other hand, opponents state that “it is a huge step back for Georgia and it creates a hostile environment for foreigners in our state, and certainly, our economic development efforts will be harmed by this.”
The state’s last confrontation over the immigration debate was in 2011, when Republican Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 87, a law tailored to closely resemble Arizona’s and strove to drive out immigrants living illegally in the state.
Along with Monday’s instating of English as the state’s official language, the Senate also proposed Senate Bill 6, which clearly mark an undocumented immigrant’s legal status in the state on the face of the license. At the moment, deferred action recipients carry the label of “limited-term” on their license; this bill would change that to say “No lawful status.”
While its supporters cite the San Bernardino shootings as a need for more protection in identifying illegal immigrants, opponents refer to it as a scarlet letter branding these undocumented immigrants.