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Prison Firms, Suspected Hate Group behind Georgia's Immigrant Bills
(APN) ATLANTA -- Private prison firms and right-wing hate groups have supported, lobbied for, and--either directly or indirectly--helped to craft several bills pending in the Georgia legislature this Session, including HB 87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.
"Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)- we know they have lobbyists here," Larry Pellegrini, a long-time activist and lobbyist for progressive causes, told Atlanta Progressive News.
"We do not know which legislators they have contributed to," Pellegrini said. Disclosures are not available yet for the current quarter, but CCA officials have a pattern of donating to legislators in Arizona. HB 87 is modeled on Arizona's controversial immigration law.
"The feeling is that these folks are certainly communicating or have communicated with their counterparts in Arizona," Pellegrini said.
"They [CCA] will benefit by the legislation. They have a corporate stake in it around the country, through bills like the ones proposed here. I think they're salivating in the hallway," Pellegrini said.
Kris Kobach, a lawyer for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), is generaly considered the main architech of Arizona's law.
Kobach has also been instrumental to helping to draft Georgia's legislation.
"Those that have put together this copy-cat bill seem to be quite proud to have had his counsel," Pellegrini said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has listed FAIR as an anti-immigrant hate group since 2007, citing the organization's "ties to white supremacy and its long track record of bigotry." SPLC is internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups.
Kobach, who is Harvard and Yale-educated, has been the brains behind similarly tough local-level immigration measures and legal actions across the country according to Mother Jones magazine.
Other news reports describe Kobach as an anti-immigration extremist who comes to town with big ideas but leaves behind huge legal bills, and unworkable laws coupled with social unrest.
As Kansas's new Secretary of State, Kobach has aleady helped state lawmakers draft a knockoff of Arizona's controversial immigration bill.
"The people behind Arizona's immigration bill and Georgia's copycat bills are the private prisons," Dr. Martha Rees, Professor of Anthropology at Agnes Scott College, told the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee during a recent hearing on HB 87.
Rees points to numerous articles on the internet including one by National Public Radio. NPR exposed the close relationship between business interests and lawmakers within the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
It was an ALEC task force, which included a representative from a private prison, along with lawmakers from Arizona and other states, that helped draft the Arizona immigration bill.
According to CCA reports reviewed by NPR, CCA executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market.
DETAILS ON HB 87
HB 87 has been called reactionary, dehumanizing, and scape-goating; it will lead to racial profiling of the Hispanic community, opponents say.
It will cost Georgia millions of dollars to implement and Georgia will lose billions in revenue, opponents point out. These bills will hurt state and local economies with tourism, agricultural, and poultry industries especially hard hit.
"HB 87 makes me feel like I have been sent back in time to the hate years of the 1950's and 60's. This bill makes me really ill," retired Lt. Col. EV Howe, who served for 21 years as a Cold War and Vietnam pilot, told the State House Non-Civil Judiciary Committee.
HB 87, also known as Show Me Your Papers, was introducted State Rep. Matt Ramsey.
HB 87 would require state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of all individuals they "reasonably suspect" of being in the country illegally.
This means that "suspicious looking people" can be stopped for minor traffic violations such as going a few miles over the speed limit or rolling a stop sign.
They would then be sent to private for profit-prisons to work as unpaid laborers before eventually being deported.
HB 87 would require private employers to use the E-Verify database, which some say is flawed, and establishes civil sanctions in case of non-compliance.
HB 87 creates criminal penalties for any individual who encourages an undocumented person to come to Georgia, or transports or habors them once they arrive. This means taxi, ambulance, and MARTA drivers could be subjected to criminal penalties.
HB 87 would provide additional incentives for localities to enter into 287(g) or Secured Communites.
HB 87 would allow any "legal resident" to bring a lawsuit against any Georgia official or agency to force them to enforce provision of the bill.
SB 40 mirrors several provisions of HB 87 but also would order fines and jail time for certain non-citizens that do not carry a "certificate of registration." It is assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia (ACLU) claims that HB 87 and SB 40 are unconstitutional and will subject the state to exorbitant litigation costs.
"Those illegal immigrants who are using a Tax ID are not filing tax returns. That means the state and federal government are retaining 100% of the tax withheld from their paychecks," Doug Rohan, an attorney, registered Republican, and son of a Cuban immigrant, told the Committee.
"Representative Ramsey stated that the reasons for drafting this bill included the purported use of public benefits by undocumented immigrants. Welfare, food stamps and unemployment assistance are simply unavailable to undocumented immigrants by existing law," Charles Kuch, an expert in immigration law, told the Committee.
"Representative Ramsey sited a number of $2.5 billion as the cost of illegal immigration in Georgia, without also noting that illegal immigrants contribute more than $9.4 billion to Georgia's economy. They also contribute between $215 million and $253 million to state coffers in sales, income and property taxes," Kuch explained.
HB 87 is currently being amended and will appear again in a similar form.
(END / 2011)
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