Georgia could become the next legal and political flashpoint over illegal immigration if it adopts an Arizona-style immigration law. But supporters of the dominant Republican Party are divided.
It's little wonder that the Republican-dominated Georgia Legislature waited until the closing days of its session to take up HB 87, an immigration reform law inspired by Arizona's controversial move last year to crack down on illegal immigrants.
Two tidal forces within the Republican Party are pulling at the Georgia bill, which has to be resolved by a Thursday midnight deadline. On one side are law-and-order Republicans who form the party's urban and suburban base, reacting to fears that illegal immigrants are in essence part of a large criminal cartel that siphons off billions in taxpayer-funded entitlements every year.
On the other are state farmers and agri-businesses, many of them financial supporters of the state GOP, who say the proposed requirements for them to check the immigration status of their quickly-hired field workers are too onerous and could, in the worst case, leave fields of Vidalia onions and groves of peach trees unpicked. Others worry that HB 87 could spark national boycotts – as the Arizona law did – and hurt the state's New South image as a diverse, newcomer-friendly place to live, work and do business.
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