Two bills that contain provisions similar to those in a tough law passed in Arizona last year are working their way through the Georgia Legislature. An amended version of the House bill proposed by Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, is on the Senate agenda Monday.
Opponents of Ramsey's bill and another proposed by Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, say the measures would harm Georgia's economy and reputation and could lead to civil rights violations.
At a news conference on the steps of the Capitol Monday, some activists held signs shaped like tombstones to emphasize what they say Georgia stands to lose if the legislation passes.
"We firmly believe that if this legislation is passed and if Gov. Deal signs it, our state will be littered with the tombstones of small businesses, the loss of conventions and tourism, farming and vibrant communities," said Lisa Adler of Amnesty International.
After the news conference, the activists delivered the petitions to the offices of Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston.
The Legislature is wrapping up. Lawmakers are set to meet Monday and Tuesday and then the final day of this year's legislative session is Thursday.
Immigration has been a hot-button issue in state legislatures around the country this year after Arizona passed its tough law last year. In Georgia, activists and supporters on both sides of the issue have been active at the statehouse all session and have stepped up their efforts in this final stretch.
The Dustin Inman Society, which advocates for stricter enforcement of illegal immigration, urged supporters to call legislators, Deal and Cagle to urge them to support the legislation.
"We must make it politically impossible to not pass this important legislation," the group's founder, D.A. King, wrote in an email to supporters. "We must make ourselves more feared than the Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau or we will become Georgiafornia and our children will ask us why we didn't do something to stop the madness."
Various groups, including those that represent agricultural businesses, restaurant owners and other business interests have urged legislators not to require employers to use a federal database called E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires. Both Ramsey and Murphy's bills have such a requirement. Both bills also would authorize law enforcement to check the immigration status of criminal suspects who can't produce an accepted form of identification, among other provisions.
Both bills have passed their respective chambers and have passed committees in the opposite chamber, where each was significantly amended.