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Russell Pearce endorses immigration bill working its way through Georgia Legislature

Senate Pres. Russell Pearce, seen here at the statewide Jan. 3 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Senate Pres. Russell Pearce, seen here at the statewide Jan. 3 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

The sponsor of a crackdown on illegal immigration that was enacted last year in Arizona said Tuesday he endorses a similar bill making its way through the Georgia Legislature.

Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, a Republican, released a statement to “strongly express” his support of legislation proposed by Georgia state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City.

“I have read the very comprehensive bill from Georgia and commend Georgia Representative Matt Ramsey for one of the most well-written, well thought-out pieces of badly needed state enforcement legislation in the nation,” Pearce said.

Ramsey’s bill would reduce the illegal immigrant population in Georgia, protect jobs for citizens and legal immigrants and lower crime rates, Pearce said.

Opponents of Ramsey’s bill say it would harm Georgia’s economy and lead to racial profiling.

“The fact that Rep. Ramsey has been saying this is not an Arizona bill is clearly undermined by this,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, which has opposed Ramsey’s bill and another sponsored by state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming.

Ramsey has repeatedly said his bill is not an Arizona copycat bill, and that he drew on many sources — including other states’ legislation, consultations with lawyers and comments from constituents — when writing it.

Ramsey’s bill would allow law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of criminal suspects and would penalize people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants, provisions also in Arizona’s law. Ramsey’s bill also would require employers to verify the immigration status of new hires and would make it a felony to “willfully and fraudulently” present false documentation when applying for a job.

Ramsey’s bill has passed the House but has not yet been scheduled for a Senate committee hearing. A House committee on Monday gutted Murphy’s bill and replaced it with the text of Ramsey’s before passing it and sending it to the House Rules Committee, which will decide if and when it gets a full House vote.

Illegal immigration has been a hot issue in legislatures around the country this year, with lawmakers in at least 25 states proposing laws that are similar to or at least include several provisions contained in Arizona’s laws by mid-March, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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