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Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 11:01am

Immigration Law May Burden Local Governments

A group of petitioners is calling for the ouster of Phil Kent, a member of the state’s new Immigration Enforcement Review Board. The seven member board has the power to investigate and fine local governments that don't comply with Georgia’s new immigration law.

Kent is controversial because of his hard-line stance against amnesty for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age, linking gang violence to multiculturalism, and calling Palestinian refugees “thugs.” Governor Nathan Deal, who appointed the board’s all-white-male members, has refused to remove Kent.

In the meantime, Georgia communities are still learning about the law that went into effect in July. Local governments are responsible for enforcing it. The Association County Commissioners of Georgia is traveling the state to help cities and counties prepare for changes in the state’s immigration law.

By the end of the year local municipalities will be responsible for collecting, compiling and submitting employment eligibility information for people who work in their counties. ACCG’s Todd Edwards says they’re adding training sessions to handle demand.

“Penalties range anywhere from loss of their qualified government status, which is the inability to get state grants, loans, and permits, to possible fines, to jail time, to removal from office.”

Edwards says the changes are especially challenging in small counties that lack the staff to handle the paperwork.

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