Immigrants and refugees are going to be top targets this upcoming legislative session. When legislators convene on Monday for the start of the 2017-2018 legislative sessions, bills targeting Georgia’s immigrant and refugee populations are going to see lots of action.
Although nothing has been officially filed yet, the AJC recently reported on bills that are expected to show up. Not surprisingly, Sen. Josh McKoon — who has previously backed other anti-immigrant measures — is one of the key players.
At least four bills are in the works in Georgia so far, including one that would block the state from accepting federal refugee resettlement funding. Another would start a new fee for out-of-state wire transfers many immigrants and refugees use to send money to their families abroad. Other measures would cut state funding to private universities that don’t comply with immigration laws and ban immigrants without legal status from paying in-state tuition.
The bill around refugee resettlement issues likely finds its roots in efforts back in 2015 to deny resettlement benefits — like food stamps — to Syrian refugees. Sam Olens, who served as Attorney General at the time, refused to defend the move because it would have been illegal.
By refusing federal funds, the state may find it has more latitude to do as it pleases, especially under a vocally anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee Donald Trump.
The fee for out-of-state wire transfers — while it does not target any group on its face — would disproportionately impact many immigrant and refugee families that send money to loved ones who aren’t in the country. Remember that this is money that someone has already earned, and therefore already paid taxes on.
Paedia Mixon, CEO of refugee resettlement agency New American Pathways, told the AJC:
“It would impact people who are trying to survive in some of these very harsh refugee environments,” she said. “Remittances are a way to supplement and make sure people can eat and so kids can go to school and they can have some type of life.”
The bills targeting universities have come about because schools like Agnes Scott and Emory University have publicly declared they are considering becoming “sanctuary campuses.” Public schools are currently banned from providing any “public benefit” — anything funded with state dollars — to students they cannot verify are citizens.
Private colleges and universities are considering joining the sanctuary campus movement as a way to better protect and support undocumented students.
This has outraged Rep. Earl Ehrhart, who has previously threatened school funds over policies he disagrees with, like protecting survivors of rape and sexual assault. He’s even gotten fired up over an email sent from the CEO of Grubhub, expressing concern about Donald Trump’s behavior and it’s impact on employees.
Safety pins will not be enough to protect vulnerable populations from dangerous, ugly legislation.