Companies warned to meet immigration law

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett's tough crackdown on illegal immigration took another turn Wednesday, when county officials warned business owners to comply with immigration laws.

Officials are sending letters to 26,000 businesses, warning of a requirement to check the immigration status of applications for occupation tax certificates, commonly known as business licenses.

"We are making sure that Gwinnett County is in compliance with the law," Chairman Charles Bannister said, noting that the law requires any license applicants to be U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, qualified aliens or nonimmigrants.

In the coming weeks, all local businesses, corporations, LLCs and partnerships will receive the letter, and applicants are required to return a signed, notarized affidavit to receive a 2010 business license.

Those who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents will have to submit a copy of paperwork establishing their status, which officials must verify through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program operated by the federal Department of Homeland Security.

"Rewarding illegal border crossers who escape apprehension from our border control and make it to Georgia, is not only immoral, but it is illegal," said D.A. King, an anti-illegal immigration advocate.

In the past, King admonished the county for only verifying the immigration status of one member of a partnership.

"Better late than never," he said.

In 2007, the county began verifying the immigration status of applicants for jobs at the county and its primary contractors and subcontractors. The verification program also applies to other public benefits such as housing assistance, certain work permits and adult education.

Later this year, officials hope to begin the federal 287(g) program, which allows deputies to begin deportation proceedings on jail inmates who are illegal immigrants.