Despite the Lessons Presented from Arizona’s SB 1070, Georgia Passed its own Version, HB87

Despite the lessons presented from Arizona’s SB 1070, Georgia passed its own immigration reform bill, the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act, HB 87. Although moral and political issues are at the forefront, the detrimental impacts on Georgia’s economy may exceed the negative affects of Arizona’s SB1070.

Similar to Arizona’s SB 1070, Georgia’s HB 87 makes it a crime to knowingly harbor or transport undocumented immigrants, imposes harsh penalties for providing false papers to undocumented immigrants, orders law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone they “reasonably suspect” to be in the country illegally, and expands the requirement for employers to use the federal E-verify system, which checks the work eligibility of employees.

Many criticize Georgia for not learning the lessons Arizona’s SB 1070 has presented us, and further predict that the Georgia immigration bill will bring similar detrimental impacts, just as Arizona’s SB 1070 has. After passing SB 1070 in April of 2010, Arizona lost an estimated $141 million dollars from cancelled conferences, $250 million in lost economic output, a projected $86 million in lost wages, 2,800 jobs over the next two to three years, and more than $1 million the state spent in legal fees defending the law.

Modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070, Georgia’s HB 87 provided a similar outcry of opposition. Costly litigation ensued. Several provisions were found unconstitutional. Many argued that Georgia would subject itself to the same negative financial effects that befell Arizona after enacting SB 1070. The major financial concern is the negative impact on Georgia’s agricultural industry due to the reduction in migrant workers (both documented and not). Notwithstanding arguments of moral and ethical issues, and projected negative affects to the agricultural industry in Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill into law on May 13, 2011, with an effective date of July 1, 2011. The E-Verify requirement for employers went into effect on January 1, 2012.

Although it is too soon to see all the damage the HB 87 will cause in Georgia, there are already strong indicators of detrimental effects. The Center for American Progress released a report stating that Georgia’s economic losses will be at least as serious as what Arizona suffered, and projects the losses to continue to grow over the coming years. The study predicts four key detriments:

  1. Farmers will likely replace the absence of migrant workers with mechanized processes. As a result, $800 million per year could be lost.
  2. Due to resource discrepancies between larger and smaller farmers, the loss of migrant laborers will affect smaller farmers more severely.
  3. Loss in the state’s agricultural sector will have negative financial impacts across all industries. This will lead to an increased unemployment rate statewide.
  4. Changes in Georgia’s agricultural industry will have negative affects across the country, including higher food prices and possible issues with food safety.

Despite the effects from Arizona’s SB 1070 and other legislative history, Georgia farmers and Americans around the country may shortly see the harm of lessons taught, but not learned. Although moral and political issues are at the forefront of immigration reform, the detrimental impacts on the economy may prove the biggest impacts of Georgia’s Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act, HB 87. While politicians continue to attempt to pass immigration reform, qualified Immigration Attorneys remain the best source to learn what options are available now for both employers and workers who wish to protect their interests and secure their lawful status in the United States.

1 In Georgia, Politics Trump Common Sense on Immigration; Leaving “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation” Behind, 4/15/2011. Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council.

2 How Georgia’s Anti-Immigration Law Could Hurt the State’s (and the Nation’s) Economy, Center for American Progress, Tom Baxter, October, 2011.

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