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To be or not to be a citizen

POSTED: June 19, 2014 6:00 p.m.
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Sen. Buddy Carter

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Politically speaking, perhaps the biggest news story last week was the historic loss of Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary election.

With his loss, Rep. Cantor (R-Va.) became the first sitting majority leader of either major party to lose a primary election.

While there are many reasons for this monumental upset, some political pundits are pointing to Rep. Cantor’s support of immigration reform and amnesty as being a major factor.

There is no question that securing our borders to provide for our nation’s safety is one of the most pressing issues currently facing us today.

Immigration reform is another matter.  Many people, including myself, feel that we should simply enforce our current laws and that the Obama administration’s refusal to enforce our laws undermines our national security and damages our economy.

While immigration figures from different organizations vary somewhat, most are surprisingly consistent.

According to FAIR (Federation for American Immigration), in 2010 the illegal alien population in our country was nearly 12 million with direct costs to taxpayers in excess of $83.5 billion annually. Of course, the indirect costs associated with jobs taken by illegal aliens makes the total cost much higher.

In Georgia the illegal alien population is estimated to be 450,000 at a direct cost to taxpayers of nearly $2.4 billion annually.

Breaking down these figures for Georgia, we find that K-12 educational costs due to illegal aliens in our state is estimated to be $1.45 billion, while state-funded uncompensated health care costs are estimated to be in excess of $210 million.

In addition, Georgians who have health insurance are forced to pay higher premiums because of the costs of those without insurance.

Finally, the cost of incarcerating deportable aliens in our state and local prisons is estimated to be $22.6 million annually.

Obviously, illegal immigration is costing our nation and the state of Georgia a tremendous amount of money.

Because of the lack of action by the federal government, Georgia, along with many other states, has been addressing the issue of illegal immigration for the past few years.

In fact, since 2006 we have passed four major immigration laws: SB 529 (2006); HB 2 (2009); HB 87 (2011); and SB 160 (2013), making us one of the toughest states in the nation when it comes to dealing with illegal immigration.

I am very proud of our state for these actions and am proud to have advocated and voted for all four of these bills.

Some of the major provisions of these bills include the authorization (but not requirement) of law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of suspects who cannot provide identification upon request, including those subject to a traffic stop. While immigration and enforcement have typically been left to federal authorities, we have become one of an increasing number of states to assist in this area.

Since 2006, we also have imposed severe penalties, including prison time and fines for individuals trying to acquire work using fake identification documents.

Also, all applicants for driver’s licenses must provide proof of identity, residency in the state and citizenship or lawful presence in the U.S.  Identity requirements are also required for individuals seeking food stamps and professional and business licenses.

We also prohibit illegal immigrants from paying in-state tuition rates at state schools, a policy that was recently upheld by the courts.

Finally, we now have some of the most strict voter ID policies in the nation.  Voters in our state now must present a photo ID at the voting booth in order to vote, a common sense law challenged, but mostly upheld, by the courts.

Unlike the federal government, we have attacked the immigration issue head on and pushed the envelope in attempting to curb this epidemic.

There is no amnesty in Georgia, just as there should be no amnesty anywhere in the U.S. Georgia does not reward bad behavior and neither should the federal government.

While it will be up to the federal government to address most of the issues surrounding illegal immigration, at least in Georgia we have not been sitting on our hands and doing nothing.  I am proud to have been a part of the work our state legislature has done over the past few years in leading on this issue.

Follow Buddy Carter on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.

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