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Governments fail to follow law, verify their employees

A December 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Zogby poll showed that about 80 percent of Georgia citizens were fed up with the illegal immigration and illegal employment crisis and wanted the state government to address the issue.

Happily for most Georgians, in April 2006, State Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, was successful in seeing his comprehensive reform bill, the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act (Senate Bill 529) signed into law.

On July 1, 2007, the law went into effect.

No one - including Sen. Rogers and those who lobbied for the bill - imagined that the elected officials of nearly all of the state's local governments would fail to comply with the language of the law.

But that is exactly what is happening.

SB 529 requires local governments - municipalities and counties - to obtain a Memorandum of Understanding with the federal government to use a database called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements system to screen applicants who have sworn that they are in the U.S. lawfully and are eligible for what the feds call "public benefits."

Of the 535 municipalities and 159 counties in the state, an April list provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security shows that a grand total of nine entities are either enrolled in SAVE or have applied for the system designed to verify that public benefits go to those who are eligible.

Gwinnett County and all of its cities are among the governments absent from the list.

While the term "public benefits" brings to mind welfare and social benefits, according to the law, they also include all "professional licenses, or commercial licenses provided by an agency of a State or local government or by appropriated funds of a State or local government" (8USC1621).

Each time a Georgia city or county issues or renews a business or commercial license without obtaining a sworn affidavit of citizenship or lawful presence in the U.S. from the applicant - and then verifying that status using the SAVE program - that local government is in clear violation of the law.

Sadly, violating laws aimed at illegal employment and illegal immigration is not a rarity these days.

In a war on terror and with brave border patrol agents risking their lives to apprehend illegal border crossers from all over the world, the concept that we would reward those who elude apprehension with a business license seems unproductive.

Not to mention illegal.

SB 529 also requires all public employers - the state itself and local governments are employers - to use the no-cost federal E-Verify database to be sure that newly hired employees have legal immigration status and are eligible to work in our nation.

On that, the local governments aren't doing so well, either.

Nearly half of Georgia's county governments have not obtained authority to use E-Verify. When it comes to the Georgia municipalities, the numbers get even worse: The Atlanta Business Chronicle recently reported that "only about one-quarter of Georgia cities had signed up for the program."

Georgians should be asking how many illegals are being paid with taxpayer funds because of the non-compliance.

Some contractors doing business with government are also required to use E-Verify and on July 1, many more will come under the rule.

One can only imagine the howls were the same governments to refuse to enforce the laws that grant taxpayer-funded education and medical care to those who have no legal right to live or work in our nation.

While some who profit from continued non-compliance will likely vehemently come out against enforcing Sen. Rogers' law, most Americans should be asking why their own local governments are not obeying it. After all, it is an election year.

D.A. King is president of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society, which is opposed to illegal immigration and illegal employment.