Immigration law vs. politics

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." - Plato

You have to wonder about Gwinnett Chairman Charles Bannister's appreciation for the mission of the brave Americans who risk their lives every day trying to secure our borders.

If illegal aliens make it here, Bannister is intentionally rewarding them with a business license.

For the reader who is not aware of the mockery involved in the county policy set by Bannister regarding illegal immigration, a quick tutorial: In 2006, with the intention of reducing the illegal population and its devastating effects on Georgia, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act.

Authored by state Sen. Chip Rogers, GSICA went into effect July 1, 2007. It requires the state and all local governments to comply with and help enforce existing federal immigration and employment law using tools provided by the federal government.

All concerned with the debate on the bill's passage understood one fact very clearly: Making life less comfortable for illegal aliens and illegal employers results in fewer of both.

Section 9 of GSICA requires all government agencies in the state that administer "Public Benefits" - including commercial licenses - to verify eligibility of non-citizen applicants using a federal online database called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program.

Gwinnett County did not obtain authority to use the SAVE system for almost a year after the mandate. Even then, commercial license applicant immigration status was not verified.

The latest county policy concerning the law is to verify the eligibility of an applicant for a commercial license - if he is a "sole proprietor." If he has a business partner or has successfully formed a corporation, the chairman's policy is to not verify eligibility of the applicants.

Simply put: One illegal alien will now - finally - have a more difficult time getting a business license in Gwinnett. Two or more illegal aliens working together as a corporation? No problemo.

Applicants to renew their business license? Again - no problemo. No sworn statement, no verification. Bannister has apparently set his own immigration policy in Gwinnett, complete with a grandfather clause.

This is the same Chairman Bannister who during a May candidate forum said hiring illegals should be a reason to take away business licenses.

In part, GSICA reads "every agency or a political subdivision of this state shall verify the lawful presence in the United States of any natural person 18 years of age or older who has applied for state or local public benefits ..."

With reasoning that not many 2-year olds could hope to get away with, Deputy County Attorney Melinda Wells offered this explanation for the county's very curious and illegal policy: "The county's policy of verifying individual applicants and sole member LLCs was carefully crafted to comply with the requirement ... that public agencies verify the lawful presence of 'any natural person.' As you know, corporations and other business entities are not natural persons."

"I don't know if that's the law. I don't know if it's not the law," Bannister said. For him and his staff, it seems there is no immigration law - only immigration politics.

GSICA is not written in a foreign language or in some secret code. It can be easily read from a link - "SB 529/Enforcement works!" - online at www.TheDustinInmanSociety.org. See if Section 9 is as confusing to you as it is to the chairman, who has spent much of a lifetime making and reading laws, including 18 years as a state representative.

Bannister also says he has heard no complaints about his policy.

Remember what Plato said.

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

SideBar: Gwinnett leads the fight against illegal immigration

Editor's note: In response to the accompanying column, Chairman Charles Bannister re-submitted the following press release, which was first sent out Oct. 17.

Gwinnett County is a leader in its endeavor to combat illegal immigration by taking advantage of programs and services offered by the state and federal governments, such as tools for verifying immigration status.

Commission Chairman Charles Bannister in July directed county government to beef up its compliance with the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act (SB 529). The result: Gwinnett County now checks the immigration status of all sole owner and sole-member limited liability corporation applicants for occupation tax certificates. These applicants are required to sign one of two affidavits.

The first is for U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. The other, for qualified aliens and non-immigrants, triggers verification through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program operated by the federal Department of Homeland Security.

The County is limiting verification to sole-owner businesses and not to corporations based on the fact that state law states the requirement to verify "any natural person," which would not include corporations. The county also uses SAVE to verify the immigration status of applicants for housing assistance.

Bannister has encouraged the efforts and said, "I feel strongly that tax dollars should not be used for the benefit of people who have entered our country illegally. It's not only a matter of protecting the taxpayer, but we're also talking about our community's security."

Gwinnett has been using the federal online E-Verify system to confirm information submitted by potential new hires for county government jobs since July 2007, and the Board of Commissioners amended the purchasing ordinance to require its primary contractors and subcontractors to do so as well. In order to ensure that these contractors are following the rules, the county periodically conducts random compliance audits.

In another move to mitigate the effects of illegal immigration on the community, the Board of Commissioners last spring approved hiring 18 new deputies in the Sheriff's Department to boost that agency's eligibility to participate in the 287(g) program through the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. ICE's approval of the application is pending. The program would authorize trained sheriff's deputies to check the immigration status of all non-U.S. born detainees with the intent of starting deportation proceedings on those who are here illegally.

Finally, the Board of Commissioners will consider an item of business Tuesday that would allow the county to accept a $152,247 grant from the Department of Justice for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. The majority of the funds would go to the Sheriff's Department, with a small percentage going to the Corrections Department, to help reimburse the expense of housing illegal aliens who have been convicted of certain types of crimes listed within the grant's guidelines.

"I am proud that Gwinnett County government is leading the state in looking for ways to mitigate the effects that illegal immigration has on our society, and we will continue to push ahead," Bannister said. "That being said, local governments must also be careful not to extend enforcement beyond the intent of state or federal laws. There is a real cost to taxpayers arising from enforcement challenges."