House trumps Senate immigration bill
Battle between chambers will determine fate of sweeping changes
Partly in an effort to get the ball rolling on immigration reform, a committee in the Georgia House of Representatives Monday voted to replace the Senate’s immigration reform bill with the version passed by the House.
The House bill’s sponsor, Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City, said the legislation will now go to the House Rules committee and hopefully soon before the full House of Representatives for a vote.
If approved by the House, the Senate could then approve the changes or insist on its original bill, which would trigger a conference committee, Ramsey said.
The House immigration bill has not been given a committee hearing in the Senate yet, Ramsey noted.
“This is an effort to keep that process moving and keep the ball moving up the field,” Ramsey said, adding that the issue was too important to languish on the sidelines until next year’s legislative session.
One controversial part of Ramsey’s bill would allow law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of any person who is being investigated for a crime or is being detained on a traffic stop.
The bill does not require law enforcement agencies to deport any undocumented “illegal” persons, and that immigration check must be at the officer’s discretion, Ramsey has said.
Currently, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is only housing and deporting illegal immigrants who are charged with felonies, he said.
Critics of the bill allege that it would encourage racial profiling by law enforcement officers. Ramsey says the bill “expressly prohibits the use of racial profiling for the purposes of enforcing the provisions of the bill.”
Ramsey’s bill also requires most employers to screen all job applicants using a federal immigration database system to determine if they are illegal immigrants or not.
The bill also addresses public benefits that are provided to illegal immigrants by state and local governments. One of the biggest reasons the legislature is focusing on illegal immigrants is the money spent by the state, Ramsey has said.
Illegal immigrants have an annual impact of up to $2.4 billion a year on the state budget as taxpayers subsidize an estimated 425,000 illegal aliens here, Ramsey has said previously.
The increase in illegal immigrants has also overburdened the school system and the state’s healthcare system, Ramsey has said.
The previous Senate-approved immigration bill carves out industry-specific exceptions to the immigration requirements for employers, most specifically those in the field of agriculture.