Immigration to Georgia
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Georgia is the sixth fastest growing state in the U.S. Within the last ten years, over 1.7 million new residents settled in Georgia. Almost 25 percent of these new residents were immigrants. During the 1990’s, Georgia's foreign-born population increased 233 percent—the second largest percent increase in the country. The total number of foreign-born residents in the state is 577,273. Foreign-born residents now account for 7 percent of the total state population.
Illegal Immigration to Georgia
228,000 illegal aliens resided in Georgia as of 2000, according to USCIS figures. Georgia has the seventh largest illegal immigrant population in the country. In mid-May 1998, the USCIS, formerly known as the INS, launched operation “Southern Denial" in southeastern Georgia. This occurred during the harvest of a $90 million onion crop. "Southern Denial" apprehended 21 illegal alien workers in Glennville, GA. In 2001, an INS investigation found more than 100 illegal aliens working in exploitative conditions in Atlanta area restaurants. Four Chamblee employment agencies imported and routed illegal aliens to Chinese restaurants, where they were kept in crowded, filthy conditions, worked long hours, and received no benefits and substandard pay. To cover their housing and transportation to and from work, a portion of their paychecks was deducted.
These immigrants who were forced to work in inhumane conditions are believed to be victims of human trafficking. Sadly, immigrants comprise the vast majority of human trafficking victims. A human trafficking conviction is a felony and carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. By lowering the standard, authorities must meet to prove suspects are guilty, and it gives authorities more leverage to prosecute "pimps" and "johns."
Georgia’s public employers and contractors or subcontractors, with 500 or more employees, must register in the federal work authorization program to verify information of all new employees. This provision became effective July 1, 2007 and applies to public employers, contractors, and subcontractors with 500 or more employees. It becomes effective on July 1, 2008, for those with 100 or more employees, and July 1, 2009, for those with fewer than 100 employees. This campaign is part of the BASIC pilot program, which aims to crack down on human trafficking.
A new Senate Bill requires Georgia residents to prove their U.S. citizenship or legal status in order to get public benefits, such as food stamps, Medicaid, and assistance for paying heating or cooling costs. Immigrant advocacy groups blasted Senate Bill 529 last year, claiming that the provisions unfairly targeted both illegal and legal immigrants.