Gov. Nathan Deal last week signed legislation passed in the most recent session of the state’s General Assembly aimed at restricting access of illegal immigrants to certain state services, while at the same time tweaking a broader immigration law approved last year to eliminate some undue burdens it created.
The signing of SB 160 was done quietly with little fanfare, but the potential impact of the legislation is significant.
Once the measure goes into effect on July 1, Georgia residents who are living in the country illegally will not be eligible for driver’s licenses, state grants, public housing, public retirement benefits or certain other state programs. They also will not be able to use foreign passports as identification to gain public benefits unless they can prove legal residency.
The measure signed by the governor also cleaned up some of the “unintended consequences” of last year’s immigration law. One of those was a mandate that those seeking professional licensing prove their legal residency every time they renew their licenses, a stipulation that was creating chaotic backlogs in the Secretary of State’s office, where such licensing is administered.
We think most Georgians would agree that the new measure signed by the governor is not only appropriate, but overdue.
We concur. Looking at the issue from a purely objective standpoint, you have to ask yourself how it ever came to be that someone living in the country illegally was allowed to obtain a legal permit to operate a vehicle, or to take advantage of public housing that surely was meant for legal residents of the country.
That said, however, the new legislation won’t solve the real problem. In fact, nothing passed by the state’s legislative body is going to solve the problem of what to do with the nation’s huge population of illegal immigrants.
It is an issue that must be resolved at the federal level. And at that level, despite years and years of talk, nothing concrete ever seems to happen.
There is some glimmer of faint hope that bipartisan discussions under way in Washington may eventually lead to some form of immigration reform. But we’ve thought that before only to find that there is an overabundance of politics and far too little statesmanship in the nation’s capital.
But Georgia, along with other states, finds itself in the position of trying to address the immigration issue in piecemeal fashion, trying to fix little pieces of the problem while the political leadership of Washington fails to address the bigger concerns.
State-by-state initiatives to address bits and pieces of the immigration issue with solutions that change every time you cross a state border aren’t going to provide any sort of real answer. That’s a job for the federal government, at which it has failed miserably to this point.