In 2006, Georgia approved what at the time was considered the nation’s most stringent law to crack down on illegal immigrants, says Governing magazine. It allowed the state to audit any employer doing business with state or local government to ensure that its workers had proper documentation. Since then, how many employers has the state audited? Zero.
The rule sounded tough, but the legislature never appropriated any money for audits. With Arizona having approved a new immigration law that now is considered the nation’s toughest, Georgia’s story is a reminder that when it comes to immigration enforcement, states’ reach often exceeds their grasp. “There was not much substance or enforcement in Senate Bill 529 in its final passage,” says Jerry Gonzalez of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. “It was more to send a message that Georgia wanted to be at the forefront of states trying to regulate immigration.” In Arizona, where many police chiefs oppose the new law, it’s possible that officers won’t be suspecting residents are illegal immigrants very often. Arizona’s measure could end up like an Oklahoma immigration law that, when it was passed in 2007, was another contender for the “nation’s toughest” title. Key provisions have been blocked in court.