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States, Localities Vote on Immigration When Feds Wont
Lawmakers across the country at state and local levels are feeling the pressure to make a decision regarding immigration laws. While Washington continues to talk about the issue, others around the country are taking action.

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 11/1/2006

Lawmakers across the country at state and local levels are feeling the pressure to make a decision regarding immigration laws. While Washington continues to talk about the issue, others around the country are taking action.

Hazleton, Penn. recently passed some of the toughest local immigration laws on record by approving $1,000 fines to landlords who willingly provide housing to illegal immigrants and denying business permits to companies that employ them.

The local government in Avon Park, Fla. is considering legislation that would make English the official language of the 9,000 person town and impose $1,000 fines on individuals or businesses that offer jobs, services, or housing to illegal immigrants. It would also prevent businesses or groups who serve illegal immigrants from obtaining building permits, grants and city contracts.

Activists around the country have opposed this and other legislation because they are worried about the outcome.

The Georgia General Assembly just passed strict immigration laws during its latest legislative session in an effort to mitigate federal indecision. Farmers who are reliant upon migrant labor are reluctant to support the new Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act (GSICA), afraid that even legal workers may fear repercussions and move to neighboring states.

The GSICA, which will go into effect 2007 and 2008, repeals tax breaks for employers who hire non-documented workers and increases state taxes by 6% for workers who fail to provide documentation. It also gives a timeline for statewide employer implementation of the federal BASIC pilot program for verifying legal employment and documentation status.

The new Georgia law requires citizenship verification for individuals over the age of 18 who use Georgias public services and requires law enforcement personnel to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement if apprehended individuals are not legal residents of the United States.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 27 states have passed 59 new immigration laws this year alone, toughening rules on issues ranging from employment and identification to education.

Immigration laws have generally been the domain of the federal government. But local and state governments are getting in on the act because Washington is moving too slowly for many critics. A flurry of lawsuits is expected to challenge some of these new laws. And, of course, any federal law passed by Congress would supersede many local or state laws. Nobody seems to know for sure what is likely to shake out of this situation.

One thing is for sure; smart companies will try to keep up with changes in the law. Check your local newspaper and find out if your city or county governments are taking action. Visit http://www.ncsl.org/programs/immig/06ImmigEnacted Legis2.htm for more information on new state immigration laws.








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