Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) is filing legislation (not yet available online) to crack down on illegal immigration in Georgia. Like most immigration restrictions, Ramsey complains about the costs of immigration, but doesn’t look at the economic benefits. As I’ve noted here before, a 2006 study from the University of North Carolina shows that immigrations, both legal and illegal, have a significant positive impact on that state’s economy (emphasis mine):
North Carolina’s rapidly growing Hispanic population contributes more than $9 billion to the state’s economy through its purchases, taxes and labor, while costing the state budget a net $102 per Hispanic resident in health care, education and correctional services, according to a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
While there are some costs, there is also a significant economic benefit to immigration. They study also noted that these immigration – again, both legal and illegal – pay $756 million in direct and indirect taxes, and run a net cost of $61 million per year. I don’t have a philosophical disagreement that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for benefits to illegal immigrants, but let’s at least put this into context.
There are also more glaring issues to Ramsey’s proposal, such as implications for free speech, via his press release:
The bill also creates criminal penalties for any individual that encourages an illegal alien to come to Georgia or that transports or harbors an illegal alien once they arrive.
I generally accept the idea of open borders because as advocate for free markets and free trade, I believe individuals have a rational self-interest in pursuing conditions that will help them prosper provided they don’t harm their fellow sovereigns. So by my reading of this, my view – if uttered publicly – will be punishable once this bill becomes law. Not to mention church groups and humanitarian organizations that may temporarily house, clothe or feed an individual, as they often do, that happens to be an illegal immigrant will considered criminals.
The bill is unquestionably tougher than the Arizona law. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, lawsuits will be waiting once it’s signed into law.
[UPDATE - THURSDAY] The legislation, HB 87, is now online. Here is the language concerning language:
(a) As used in this Code section, the term ‘illegal alien’ means a person who has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of federal law.
(b) A person who encourages, entices, or induces an illegal alien to enter into this state, where such person knows or recklessly disregards the fact that such person being encouraged, enticed, or induced to enter into this state is an illegal alien, shall be guilty of the offense of encouraging an illegal alien to enter into this state.
(c) For a first offense, a person convicted of encouraging an illegal alien to enter into this state shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 or imprisonment not to exceed 12 months, or both. For a second or subsequent conviction of encouraging an illegal alien to enter into this state, a person shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $5,000.00 or more than $20,000.00 or by imprisonment of not less than one or more than five years, or both.”
The United States Supreme Court ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), later clarified in Hess v. Indiana (1973), that a state could not criminalize speech unless it is meant to incite “imminent lawless action.” In other words there’s a difference between speech that has a high likelihood of inciting a criminal act of violence and speech that simply advocates an idea.
So yes, this bill will have some constitutional problems.