The Associated Press
- Georgia's governor signed a sweeping immigration bill Monday that supporters
and critics say gives the state some of the toughest measures against illegal
immigrants in the nation.
"I want to make this clear: we are not, Georgia's government is not, and this
bill is not, anti-immigrant," Gov. Sunny Perdue said at the signing.
"We simply believe that everyone who lives in our state needs to abide by our
The law requires verification that adults seeking many state-administered
benefits are in the country legally. It sanctions employers who knowingly hire
illegal immigrants and mandates that companies with state contracts check the
immigration status of employees.
The law also requires police to check the immigration status of people they
The measure is believed to be the first comprehensive immigration package to
make it through a statehouse this session, according to the National Conference
of State Legislatures.
Many of the new law's provisions will not take effect until July 1, 2007.
The bill drew protests at Georgia's state Capitol and prompted a daylong work
stoppage by thousands of immigrants.
Tisha Tallman, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and
Education Fund, said she was studying potential legal challenges to the bill.
The new law will not affect emergency medical care and educational benefits for
those in kindergarten through 12th grade, which federal courts have said must be
provided regardless of immigration status.
Exemptions were also added for some other services like prenatal care and the
treatment of communicable diseases.
The move to tighten rules in Georgia comes as lawmakers in Washington wrestle
with competing proposals to shore up controls at the border, create a guest
worker program and create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already
in the United States.
Outside the Capitol on Monday, a few hundred supporters of the legislation
applauded loudly when word came that Perdue was signing the proposal.
The crowd waved American flags and cheered as state Rep. Melvin Everson, one of
the Georgia House's two black Republicans, denounced illegal immigration as a
cancer and proclaimed: "The last time I checked, America was the land of English
- not Spanish."
And they hollered as Republican state Sen. Chip Rogers, the bill's author,
called it "the strongest single bill in America dealing with illegal immigration
- bar none."
At the bill signing, Rogers said he has been approached by lawmakers from South
Carolina and Colorado who were interested in crafting similar proposals for