ARTICLE

Lober Dobson & Desai LLC
Attorneys at Law
Atlanta | Macon

Email: info@lddlawyers.com

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION - GEORGIA'S CRACKDOWN & HOW IT AFFECTS BUSINESS

This United States, whose beginnings are traced to immigrants from all over the world, is now torn over issues relating to immigration into the country. Immigrants, legal and otherwise, have focused their attention on the Federal government as it contemplates “doing something” about illegal immigration. While marches and rallies are being scheduled and lawmakers ponder methods to solve the issue of illegal immigrants coming and staying in this country, states like Georgia take matters into their own hands. Georgia which is home to between 500,000 to 800,000 illegal immigrants just passed one of the toughest sets of immigration laws in the country.

The "Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act" (the “Act”) was signed into law on April 17, 2006 by Governor Sonny Purdue. The new law undoubtedly affects undocumented aliens, but it also significantly affects businesses. The main provisions of the Act provide:

  1. Verification of residence to obtain state or federal benefits which are provided by a state agency;
  2. Verification of employee eligibility to work in the United States after being hired by employers who have state or local government
    contracts;
  3. Prohibition of tax benefits to employers for deducting business expenses for undocumented employee salaries;
  4. Requirement for 6% withholding tax by employers for hiring undocumented aliens;
  5. Allowance of law enforcement training to put the new Act in force;
  6. Creation of heavy penalties for human trafficking;
  7. Verification of immigration status for those charged with felony or DUI; and
  8. Limitations on what services a for-profit immigration assistance company can provide and criminalization of certain actions.

The new laws include provisions that require state social welfare recipients to prove their legal status before getting aid; however, no one must prove their status before receiving emergency medical care, prenatal care and immunization of children. Even though undocumented aliens are prevented from receiving services which are funded by taxpayers, their children are exempt from the new laws. Also, police officers must now check the legal status of everyone they arrest. If documentation cannot be verified, the federal immigration authorities are to be alerted.

The provisions of the Act cover a broad array of immigration issues, but have a significant effect on Georgia businesses which have contracts with state or local governments. Employers have been hiring illegal aliens in this state for many years as they have found this labor to be not only more economical but also more reliable and hard working. Now these employers will have to amend their hiring process somewhat as the new provisions of the Act that affect businesses come into effect on July 1, 2007. A crackdown on human trafficking and businesses hiring illegal immigrants begins at that time. However, businesses with fewer than 500 but more than 100 employees have until July 1, 2008 to become compliant with the Act. Finally, all remaining businesses will be required to become compliant with the Act as of July 1, 2009. Complying with the Act includes performing employment verification after hiring employees through the federal BASIC pilot program. If businesses are found to be in violation of the Act, fines will be levied against them.

Additionally, employers can no longer claim state tax deductions for the wages paid to illegal aliens in excess of $600.00. This provision will become effective on January 1, 2008 for all employees employed after that date. However, this provision will be difficult to enforce since employers are only required to ask for documentation from employees and fake documentation is often difficult to differentiate from legal documentation. Businesses will also have to pay a 6% withholding tax for all nonresident aliens employed by them. Under this portion of the Act, the employer is required pay tax on 1099 employees/contractors who cannot provide a taxpayer ID number, provide an incorrect taxpayer ID number or provide a nonresident taxpayer ID number. This provision, like much of the Act, also goes into effect on July 1, 2007.

The Act passed by Georgia is just the beginning of regulating businesses with respect to illegal aliens. The majority of these provisions do not go into effect until July 1, 2007, so employers have ample time to make sure they will be in compliance with the new regulations concerning their hiring patterns. The federal government is likely to pass some sort of regulation in the near future, but it is still unclear as to the magnitude of the restrictions that will be placed on illegal immigration.

 

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