>Georgia Governor Deal Signs Immigration Law

>Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the very controversial HB87 Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act on Friday May 13 along with about 50 other bills passed by the legislature. This bill was blogged about many times as it worked its way through the General Assembly. The portion of the bill that has generated the most interest among our members is the section on the e-Verify system. I will give a much more detailed review of those provisions at a later date and send them to the Georgia members but suffice it to say that most of our members could have to use the E-Verify program by the 2013 season.

The bill has many sections dealing with immigrants, employers, and those that transport or harbor illegal immigrants. These provisions put severe criminal penalties for knowingly helping illegal immigrants stay underground and/or move them from place to place. Along with the employer sections, there are several sections dealing with the expansion of a
Federal program that allows local law enforcement to initiate deportation proceedings as well as requiring proof of legal residence if the law enforcement official has probable cause to suspect a person they have stopped for whatever reason is illegal.

Several of these provisions are similar to laws in other states. Many of those laws are being challenged or have been overturned in those states. It is expected that those sections in the Georgia law will be challenged immediately upon the law going into effect. I would expect an injunction to be put in effect when those challenges are filed. The question becomes whether or not any injunction will stop the entire bill or just those sections that are being challenged.

There are many questions regarding the bill that will likely be answered as rules are drafted and several news articles about the bill have been seen throughout the state. The issue causing the most calls to this office is the effective date of the law (particularly the E-Verify sections). The bill has now become law. The effective date is July 1, 2011 for most provisions contained in the bill, but the E-Verify section (Section 12) has a phase-in period. Employers with 500 or more employees will have to comply beginning January 1, 2012…those with 100 to 500 employees must comply July 1, 2012 and those with 10 to 100 employees must comply by July 1, 2013. Those with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from the E-Verify provisions of the law entirely. It is important to note that the number of employees for determining compliance will be the number of employees (those working more than 35 hours per week) ON January 1, of each year. Evidence of compliance with this code section must be shown to any local, or state authority issuing a business, professional, occupational or other license or that may be covered in certain sections of Georgia law before a license can be renewed or issued.

As Georgia moves forward with this implementation of this law, we will keep all members but particularly our Georgia members informed as to the details of this broad immigration law. Other states in our region are in the process of passing or have passed similar laws. It will be interesting to see how these evolve and move within the courts and as the rules are drafted and promulgated. Keep reading the blog and don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions.