ATLANTA (AP) -- Democratic lawmakers said Monday they will seek to repeal a law that launched a crackdown last year on illegal immigrants in Georgia, but their small caucus lacks the votes to overturn it in the Republican-dominated General Assembly.
Democratic officials said Rep. Pedro Marin and Rep. Lynmore James will sponsor the repeal, but they had not submitted the necessary legislation by Monday afternoon and did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The repeal will be among the top priorities of an agenda that Democrats plan to unveil at a news conference Tuesday.
James said in a statement that families cannot afford "to have politicians playing with their food." Farmers have complained that the crackdown has discouraged Hispanic field hands, including many who are illegal immigrants, from coming to Georgia to harvest labor-intensive fruits and vegetables.
"Georgia deserves better than a bill that costs millions of dollars in lost crops, lost revenue and lost opportunities," James said.
The Democratic caucus has scheduled a hearing Thursday where its members will hear about the effects of the crackdown in rural towns. Farmers have complained of labor problems since the law passed last year, though Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said earlier this month it wasn't clear whether any of the reported shortages were a direct result of the law.
Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, accused illegal immigrants of financially burdening the state and said the supporters of the crackdown "will oppose any effort to diminish its provisions."
Starting this year, the law requires that businesses with 500 or more employees use a federal database called E-Verify to check whether new hires are eligible to legally work in the country. That requirement will be gradually expanded to include companies with 10 or more employees by July 2013.
The law makes it a felony crime with hefty penalties to use false information or documents when applying for a job. It created an immigration review board to investigate complaints about government officials not complying with state laws related to immigration. Public officials can be fined or even removed from office if they fail to the use the federal E-Verify database to verify the eligibility of new hires or those who apply for public assistance, such as food stamps.
A federal judge in June blocked parts of Georgia's law pending the outcome of a legal challenge filed by immigrant rights and civil liberties groups. One of the blocked sections authorizes police to check the immigration status of suspects who don't have proper identification and to detain illegal immigrants. The other creates a state penalty for people who knowingly and willingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing another crime.
The state has challenged the judge's decision to block those parts of the law, and a hearing on the injunction is set for March 1 in a federal appeals court.
Ray Henry can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/rhenryAP . Follow Kate Brumback at http://www.twitter.com/katebrumback.