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New Immigration Law Said to Scare Restaurant Workers

Georgia's restaurant lobby is battling part of a new immigration law that it says is hurting member businesses by scaring away the staff. State Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Tucker) agrees that the law is "a huge drain" on the Norcross economy.

Georgia's restaurant lobby is battling a new immigration law that it says is hurting member businesses by scaring away the staff.  State Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Tucker) agrees that the law is "a huge drain" on the Norcross economy, but his colleague across the aisle says he's heard no complaints.

The Georgia Restaurant Association calculates that some Georgia restaurants are losing $21,000 a month in revenues due to the new state immigration law, Senate Bill 87. That law, passed earlier this year, will eventually require most businesses to check full-time hires' immigration status through the federal E-Verify database.

"These losses are being caused by not being able to fully staff restaurants," said GRA Executive Director Karen Bremer.  When staff leave, for whatever reason, the restaurants must cut hours, tables and menus, she explained.

And "the persons applying for the jobs are just not qualified," she contended, for the hard work and demands of a kitchen.

She hinted at modest kitchen pay as well, noting that restaurants have been able to serve diners at fairly affordable prices. If restaurant costs go up, that may change.

However, she also noted that the survey was sent to some 3,000 restaurant e-mail addresses in late October and early November; of those, about 500 sent an answer.  About 375 of those reported a labor shortage.

Some portion of that 500 responses included financial information about losses. It's from that pool that GRA calculated the $21,000 monthly loss.

"My district is on the I-85 corridor. We have Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Buford Highway. So we're probably ground zero for the effect," said Thompson, speaking after a Nov. 15 meeting of the state Senate Democratic Special Committee on Immigration and Georgia Economy, which he chairs.

Norcross Republican State Rep. Tom Rice voted for SB 87 earlier this year and stands by the E-Verify provisions.  "In the district I serve I have not heard from one restaurant owner who suffers from a lack of staff due to this bill," Rice wrote in an email to Patch.  "I do believe that jobs of any kind should be reserved for those who are legally here," he concluded.

Yet the GRA's Bremer insists the law has had an "alarming" impact on her members' kitchens and dining rooms.

Indeed, the law goes beyond E-Verify.  Senate Bill 87 also makes it a crime to knowingly transport or shelter an illegal immigrant and gives local police the right to demand proof of legal residency during any routine traffic stop or other interaction. A range of activists are against that, from churches to the Southern Poverty Law Center to the American Civil Liberties Union.  The last two are parties to a federal suit against the state over the transportation, harboring and local police provisions. A judge has suspended those parts until a hearing takes place.

Overall, Bremer said, "our workers are scared and leaving the cities."

Thompson said his district has seen a bit of an "exodus."

Some state Senate Democrats have called for the entire repeal of SB 87, something unlikely in political reality. Thompson stopped short of calling for repeal, saying that instead of writing state laws, Georgia needs to spend its political capitol on lobbying Washington for comprehensive immigration reform.

Francis November 18, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Only the TEA PARTY has a serious concern to reduce the federal government size, trash the tax code, close loopholes for corporate, business and the complicity for campaign donor friends inside the Democrats, GOP, and selling citizens’ continuously to the highest bidder to ‘K’ street lobbyists. Our only hope is the TEA PARTY, the ordinary American who can rid us of the corruption in the center of government. Just in the last few days we have heard of ‘Insider Trading’ that is allowed for politicians, but outsiders—THE AMERICAN PEOPLE—will go to prison. Only the TEA PARTY can save America now from the decay that is deeply ingrained in Washington. Lamar Smith’s, a Texas lawmaker was inspired to produce this piece of legislation, goes to the heart of the matter of immigration and its rapidly rising cost. Those businesses of every type have encouraged poverty from every country--to settle here. Unlike most developed countries illegal immigration is a felony, not a civil infraction as in the good old USA. They have caused this incredulous infection that has contaminated our country with a large chunk of discretionary spending, to support these people. That has affected each of the 50 states financial shortfalls for decades. The major majority realize now that we cannot keep accepting people who are desperate, and placing a strain of financial weight on public schools for their children, the hospitals and an overpopulated penal system.
Francis November 18, 2011 at 09:25 PM
No finger is pointed at any person’s race, color or spiritual dedication, but anybody who has arrived here through any means, with intent to grab as much free welfare assistance as possible. A MANDATORY E-VERIFY SYSTEM will deliver relief from illegal aliens in the labor market. Revised E-Verify is already expelling foreigners who are stealing jobs from the unfortunate 22 million workers, even though it has the Liberal press who denies its effectiveness. Unbelievable the main culprit that had an obligation to the American people through many changes of administration, have failed to close all loopholes in stringent enforcement. Not even the border fence has been completed--or any serious laws to hold businesses accountable for the damage caused by illegal alien labor. Going to Google you can help determine the terrible toll place on this nation, by out-of-control immigration. Our strength is in our votes and you can contact your political leader through NumberrsUSA.
Francis November 18, 2011 at 09:26 PM
You can read all about corruption at Judicial Watch website, you can either contact ICE website, to report illegal aliens working. You can even join a local TEA PARTY online. You have to wonder who Obama and the Department of Justice as our Public Servants are obligated too. It certainly not to assist the majority of the citizens and legal residents, as the President and the judicial branch have been asserting their power on Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and now Indiana. All these states want to do is inhibit economic aliens from going there and ransacking the welfare and public entitlement programs. As of November 18, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) and Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) is now co-sponsoring House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith's Legal Workforce Act (H.R.2885.) adding to the astounding 12 more lawmakers in the last two weeks, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 65, who wanting this law to reach the floor of the house of Representatives.
Francis November 18, 2011 at 09:27 PM
The Washington switchboard at 202-224-3121 is already inundated with infuriated callers, who are justifiably contacting not only the House ‘Ways and Means Committee led by Majority Speak John Boehner (R-OH) on this import legislation. Whoever answers the phone explain to them you are a voter and want your policymaker to sponsor this bill. You can also insisting that all of Congress, on both sides of the chamber co-sponsor this beneficial Bill. Every TEA PARTY member throughout America should join in communicating with every state and US Senator and Congressman. Once we get illegal immigration under control, then ‘THE People’ can enact a standardized ‘Guest Worker’ program’ for agriculture, but with good regulated pay, conditions that must be observed. Not the incorrigible way some farmers are treating their charges today. Attn: We must all be watchful of illegal aliens voting in the future election cycle.
David B. Manley November 18, 2011 at 11:03 PM
Even if the State statutes were eliminated, it would still be against the law to hire undocumented workers. Because 375 out of 3000 responded that they had labor shortages, the entire GRA is against enforcement of the immigration law because workers that were hired in violation of the law, and should not have been hired in the first place, are leaving. On the other hand, I do not hear of any efforts by the GRA to have a guest worker statute passed that would protect foreign workers from being underpaid and abused. The lesson GRE leaves us with is it should be OK to violate a law for economic reasons if you are not likely to be caught.

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