It’s pretty clear that nationally and here in Georgia, the Republican base just isn’t ready to accept comprehensive immigration reform, which would include a form of amnesty. In a way, I get that. Yes, such reform is inevitable, largely because it’s the only plausible solution to the problem, but for some that’s a hard thing to acknowledge. People need time.
But frankly, I’m surprised by the aggressive tone of anti-immigrant legislation making its way through the 2014 Georgia General Assembly. It’s as if Republicans want to take every last possible opportunity to drive a permanent wedge between their party and the growing number of Hispanic voters in the state.Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese. The road-sign test is given only in English.) is sponsored by state Sen. Don Balfour of Gwinnett County, who faces a tough re-election battle and apparently plans to use immigrant-bashing to distract attention from his string of ethical problems. The licensing provision in particular affects only legal immigrants — those here illegally aren’t eligible for a drivers’ license anyway. It constitutes a big “you’re not welcome here” sign, and I’m sure it would be viewed that way by executives at the Korea-based Kia Motors, which has a plant near West Point, and at Mercedes, BMW or any other multinational corporation thinking about locating here.
If approved by two-thirds of both the House and Senate, the measure would go on the November ballot, where I’m sure it would draw conservatives to the polls. However, that one-time political boost would come at the cost of lasting damage to the state’s economy and to the Republican Party’s effort to expand its political base. Given looming demographic change, that’s just foolish.
The same is true of Senate Bill 404, also making its way through the committee system and with some high-powered sponsorship. SB 404 would ban the issuance of drivers licenses to immigrants who have been granted federal “deferred action” status. That would include those who were brought here illegally as young children, have been educated here and know no other country. It would also include those granted temporary status as battered spouses or as parents of seriously ill children needing medical treatment. According to state officials, more than 10,000 such licenses have been issued in Georgia.
What possible purpose would be served by stripping those people of the right to drive legally? The bill strikes me as being mean simply for the pleasure of being mean. Unfortunately, the bill’s co-sponsors include the chairman of the Senate Government Oversight Committee, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, the chairman of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee and the vice chair of the Senate Republican Caucus.
Senseless, mean-spirited bills like that have a way of being remembered for a long, long time. The memory will be handed down from parent to child to grandchild, poisoning the reputation of the GOP even among future generations who speak little or no Spanish, but who remain proud of their background.
And for what?
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