There have been two bills introduced in the Georgia legislature dealing with immigration and undocumented workers. 

Both bills would require all Georgia companies with more than 5 employees to use the Federal E-verify program when hiring new W-2 employees, including seasonal workers. There are also other provisions in the bills imposing potential fines and criminal charges on the employer, even when the employee may have I-9 documents.   

The bills, House Bill 87 (Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011), http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20112012/108553.pdf, and Senate Bill 40, http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20112012/108979.pdf, are currently moving through committee hearings. A number of organizations, including GFVGA, are working with the authors of the bills to make changes but nothing has been finalized yet. House Bill 87 could come to the House floor for a vote in the next week or two. 

GFVGA is concerned because:

• E-verify adds another beaucratic layer for companies to do business in Georgia. To use e-verify someone in your office has to be trained and registered to use this federal internet based system. The instruction manual for e-verify is only 82 pages long. For companies with HR departments this may not be a problem but for a small business this is an additional burden. 

• Some of the provisions in the legislation could charge a business owner with fines or criminal charges even if their employee has proper I-9 documents.

• The cost of enforcing this legislation will be passed on to local city and county governments. Kentucky prepared a fiscal impact statement showing that an AZ-type immigration law would cost that state a net $40 million a year in new costs for local jails, state prisons, the foster-care system, the administrative offices of the courts and public defenders. This sum does not include additional police personnel costs. Authorities estimate the number of undocumented workers in Georgia is 455,000 as compared to Kentucky at 50,000. That $40 million could be $360 million for Georgia.  

• Many legislators counter that agriculture has H2A available if there is a worker shortage. H2A is available, but there is a 60 day lead time for a petition for workers, advertising, housing and transportation requirements. These regulations do not allow for a quick response to a worker shortage. 

While your elected representatives are home for the weekend please make contact with them or send them an e-mail concerning these two bills. No matter what your thoughts are on these issues, GFVGA urges you to express your opinions to your legislators. They want to hear from you. 

If you do not know how to contact your legislator go to http://www.votesmart.org/official_state.php?state_id=GA&dist=&go2.x=5&go2.y=8.

We will provide an update on the status of the legislation over the weekend or early next week.  However, please feel free to contact our office if you have any questions – 1-706-845-8200.