- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

State lawmakers across the nation are grappling with how to control the rising cost and effect of illegal aliens, with 368 bills pending or being debated in 42 states.

The bills, with more expected, target a number of constituency concerns, including the rising costs of education and medical care for illegal aliens, exploding crime, punishment for employers who exploit illegal aliens and the federal government’s inability to secure the U.S. border.

But, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks legislation, only Georgia has managed to get an immigration law through a state legislative session this year.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed sweeping new laws on Monday, requiring adults in that state seeking benefits to prove their U.S. citizenship, sanctioning employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens and requiring companies with state contracts to check their employees’ legal status.

The law, which does not affect emergency medical care or education benefits for children, also requires police officers in Georgia to check the legal status of people they arrest. It has been called one of the toughest laws targeting illegal aliens in the U.S.

The bill’s author, State Sen. Chip Rogers, called the legislation “the strongest single bill in America dealing with illegal immigration — bar none.” He told The Washington Times this week it was intended to send a message that “while the federal government is not enforcing its immigration laws, the state of Georgia takes those laws seriously.”

The Republican chairman of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, Mr. Rogers called legal immigration the “foundation of America,” but said it is important that those coming to the U.S. do so through proper channels.

“There are millions of people worldwide standing in line, waiting to come to this nation,” he said. “We must make sure those honest people are rewarded first. It amazes me we have U.S. senators who don’t love America, because if they did they wouldn’t be selling U.S. citizenships for a few thousand dollars and back taxes. That is an embarrassment.”

Georgia has the second fastest growth of illegal aliens in the United States, behind only North Carolina.

Passage of the Georgia law, most provisions of which take effect in July 2007, coincided with a decision this week by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, to veto a bill to give local law-enforcement authorities the power to arrest illegal aliens.

Citing opposition from police officials in Arizona, Miss Napolitano said the measure would have given local authorities the job of enforcing federal immigration law. Republican sponsors of the bill said it would help curtail rampant illegal immigration and alien and drug smuggling in the state.

In 2004, Arizona voters approved an immigration initiative known as Prop. 200 that required proof of citizenship to register to vote, proof of identity to vote, verification of identity and eligibility to receive public benefits, and the mandatory reporting of illegal aliens to federal immigration officials.

Initiative proponents had argued that Prop. 200’s passage was a crucial first step in reducing a glut of illegal aliens in the state. The measure passed with 56 percent of the vote despite opposition from key elected officials in Arizona, including Miss Napolitano and Republican Sen. John McCain.

With immigration reform legislation stalled in Congress, some states are considering alternatives, including New Hampshire, which has proposed fining businesses up to $2,500 if they knowingly hire illegal aliens, and Colorado, where lawmakers want to ban electronic wire transfers of money to other countries, restrict state and local services to persons in the U.S. illegally and bill Congress for services mandated by the federal government.

In California, Republican lawmakers have proposed 25 measures that would restrict illegal aliens’ access to college, block state-funded benefits and encourage police officers to act as immigration agents. They are looking to restore portions of Prop. 187 — passed by the voters but overturned by a federal court — that prohibited benefits to illegal aliens not mandated by federal law.

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