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Parts of Georgia, South Carolina immigration laws go into effect today

MahurinImmigration_Thumb_1615.jpg
MahurinImmigration_Thumb_1615.jpg

Although two of the more controversial provisions of Georgia’s new immigration enforcement were blocked by a federal judge on Monday, other provisions that were not overturned go into effect today. It is now a criminal offense to apply for a job with a false I.D. in Georgia, punishable by up to $250,000 in fines and 15 years in jail.

There have been reports of immigrants, Hispanics and others who may be affected by the new law fleeing the state before it goes into effect. This has resulted in serious labor shortages, leaving crops to rot in fields and forcing farmers to raise prices to pay for new workers. It’s unclear which parts of the law were of greatest concern to the people leaving the state, but anecdotal accounts reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggest the judge’s decision was a relief to some of the immigrants thinking about leaving:

Jose “Panda” Carias said he heard similar sentiments expressed on the morning radio show he hosted Tuesday morning on WPOL 610 AM, a Spanish hit music station that broadcasts across the Atlanta area. More than 150 people called his Lawrenceville-based station in the space of one hour concerning the judge’s decision, he said. Some said they were scrapping their plans to flee Georgia because of Thrash’s ruling, Carias said.

But many of the state’s farmers were less assuaged:

South Georgia’s Ronald Barksdale doubts a federal judge’s decision to halt parts of Georgia’s tough new immigration enforcement law will help his farm. It has suffered $250,000 in losses he said are tied to the new law…. Barksdale believes Georgia’s reputation regarding not wanting illegal immigrants has been set for years to come. The injunction won’t do much to change that, he said.“It’s too little too late,” he said.

Philip Grimes, a farmer in Tifton, said the judge’s decision “ain’t changed nothing. People are leaving. They don’t want to be in Georgia.” Grimes said he is now harvesting cantaloupes but might switch to growing more products that can be harvested mechanically, such as cotton, corn and peanuts.

The two provisions halted by the judge would have resulted in police checking the immigrant status of anyone detained for traffic violations or some other crime and would have criminalized the harboring and transporting of undocumented immigrants.

One of the remaining provisions set to go into effect on January 1 requires that employers use the federal E-Verify system to determine job applicants’ legal status before hiring them. Federal law says that E-Verify can only be used for new employees, so many undocumented workers will be unaffected unless they lose their jobs.

In South Carolina, where a law quite similar to Georgia’s passed last week, a new illegal immigration enforcement unit will be established today. The unit will coordinate between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

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