Georgia now joins Arizona in passing immigration bills that sacrifice individual liberty for the sake of enforcing immigration legislation, most importantly, bad immigration legislation. Our immigration system is broken, highly complicated, outdated, and often underpinned by racist or xenophobic attitudes. HB-87 only reinforces it.
Like Arizona’a immigration reform last year, AZ-1070, HB-87 allows law enforcement officers to unreasonably search individuals on their immigration status based on “reasonable suspicion” even during routine traffic stops (Article V). This undue ability challenges the Constitution, giving undue power to an individual’s subjective judgement. It is meant, according to Governor Nathan Deal, to “protect employers, taxpayers while upholding the rule of law.” Deal fails to see the waste of Georgia’s money when the Department of Justice files suit against this law, as they have already done against Arizona, or the fact that this redirects our law enforcement from dealing with real pressing issues in Georgia, not to mention the government’s failure to address our state’s failing education system or economic recovery. This law only creates more opportunities for corruption and the abuse of minorities instead of protecting them, and it distracts from the real issue at hand here: the flawed, out-dated system of American immigration.
President Obama’s policy speech this week in El Paso, Texas highlights a new blueprint for building a 21st century immigration system including strengthening restrictions on unscrupulous business practices employing (and often endangering) illegal workers, investing in smarter, more efficient, and safer ways to protect our borders, and celebrating those who pursue higher education so that they may contribute to American progress.
“And it was a reminder of a simple idea, as old as America itself: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants — a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s ideals and America’s precepts. That’s why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here — so they could be free to work and worship and start a business and live their lives in peace and prosperity. The Asian immigrants who made their way to California’s Angel Island. The German and Scandinavians who settled across the Midwest. The waves of Irish, and Italian, and Polish, and Russian, and Jewish immigrants who leaned against the railing to catch their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty…
That’s the promise of this country — that anyone can write the next chapter in our story. It doesn’t matter where you come from — (applause) — it doesn’t matter where you come from; it doesn’t matter what you look like; it doesn’t matter what faith you worship. What matters is that you believe in the ideals on which we were founded; that you believe that all of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. (Applause.) All of us deserve our freedoms and our pursuit of happiness. In embracing America, you can become American. That is what makes this country great. That enriches all of us.”
It would make sense that the cheapest and most effective way to bolster enforcement of immigration legislation is to strengthen the legislation to enforce, and it would make sense for that legislation to be rooted in the culture and history of our nation and reflect American values. What doesn’t make sense is 50 individual policies created by state legislatures that counteract a cohesive, national policy.
We have the opportunity to build a stronger nation, and legislation like HB-87 have sincerely crippled it by alienating members of communities and undermining the greatest trait of America: out of many, one.