Georgia Offers “Amnesty” to Businesses From Its Tough Immigration Law

More amnesty from immigration laws by prosecutorial discretion! No, not the president’s order to defer deportation for certain children of undocumented immigrants, but the decision by Georgia’s Department of Audits and Accounts and Department of Labor to refuse to go after local government agencies who have yet to comply with their state’s E-Verify mandate — further evidence that immigration restrictionists, like Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, may oppose the president’s particular use of discretion, but they do not oppose it on principle.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found that many local agencies failed to confirm that they are using E-Verify — the online employment verification program designed to catch undocumented workers — by the deadline established in the state’s tough immigration law, HB 87. “Numerous city and county agencies,” the paper writes, “including Chamblee, Sandy Springs and the DeKalb County Housing Authority—did not file required reports on time to confirm that they and their contractors are using E-Verify.” Nearly half of the 2,324 government agencies in the state did not file reports on time.

Has the state upheld “the rule of law” in the same ham handed way against businesses as it has demanded the federal government enforce it against undocumented immigrants? No, realizing that enforcing the punishments would cause extreme hardship for local municipalities, the state has taken a more temperate approach. “So many agencies have failed to submit the reports,” the paper writes, “that the state is preparing to send out a mass mailing this week to remind them.” A reminder? In other words, they are utilizing executive discretion to not enforce the law.

“I don’t think anyone that worked on HB 87 believed there would be universal compliance in the relatively short time it has been in effect, given how sweeping and comprehensive the changes are in that law,” State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, the author of HB 87 told the newspaper.

As I discussed in my analysis of Obama’s deportation deferral decision, Alabama has faced similar problems. “When 60,000 Alabama businesses missed their state’s deadline to sign up for E-Verify,” I wrote, “the state extended to them a temporary amnesty. Alabama DHS spokeswoman Katheryn Kennedy said, ‘Right now we’re not penalizing businesses. We’re trying to help them, to be a safe harbor.’ ” In other words, everyone agrees on the value of prosecutorial discretion—even immigration restrictionists.

Why Georgia and Alabama resorted to “amnesty” lines up nicely with what critics of E-Verify, like CEI, have said all along—namely that it’s another regulation that burdens businesses and municipalities. “Some local governments,” the paper writes, “which bear much of the burden for enforcing the law, are confused about how to follow it. Sandy Springs, for example, sent a letter this year to 6,700 businesses that included erroneous information about the E-Verify requirement.”

“The problems and confusion experienced by municipalities underscore the many problems with the new law: no training for municipalities, no funding for such training, no specificity within the law, and no clear goals or the will to achieve them,” immigration attorney Carolina Antonini told the paper.

The E-Verify mandate and other provisions designed to target undocumented workers has had an effect on the state–a negative effect. Workers have fled, and the economy has suffered. So much produce was being lost Gov. Deal tried to use convicts to replace them — the scheme failed, miserably. E-Verify and increased enforcement will not fix America’s broken immigration system — only free market competition in labor will. It’s time to reject fences, raids, and audits and embrace an open and free society.