Georgia Bar Journal
GSB Vol. 13, NO. 4, Pg. 14.
The Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act: Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Georgia-Think Globally. . . .Act Locally
GSB JournalVol. 13, NO. 4December 2007The Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act: Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Georgia- "Think Globally. . . .Act Locally"Mark J. Newman and Hon-Vinh DuongAgainst a backdrop of a globalizing economy, heightened awareness of terrorism and security issues, and growing numbers of undocumented immigrants, immigration reform has become a hot topic. With Congress's failed immigration reform efforts, state legislatures have passed a raft of bills addressing varied immigration-related topics from eligibility for employment and public benefits to human trafficking and law-enforcement guidelines. Thirty-two states now have immigration laws of their own.
In an effort to cope with the void left by the federal government and the surfeit of immigrants into the state, Georgia's state legislature has enacted one of the strictest and most comprehensive bills, the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act (GSICA).(fn1) Signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue in April 2006, GSICA has been both a benchmark for other states' legislation and a focal point for political debate. GSICA, which took effect on July 1, 2007,(fn2) will have far-reaching effects because it requires all public employers, their contractors and subcontractors to participate in a Federal Work Authorization Program to verify the employment eligibility of all new employees.(fn3)
Traditionally a federal responsibility, immigration has recently become an important topic for the states because of their continuing responsibility for educating, caring for, punishing, and integrating the growing numbers of immigrants, particularly in light of the federal government's failure to provide any substantial immigration reform. Immigration legislation has raised some important issues of federalism as the states have begun to assert substantial authority in this area of law by introducing more than 1,150 immigration-related bills in 2007, doubling the number introduced in 2006.(fn4) In a further twist, state laws such as GSICA mandate participation in and compliance with federal programs.
As one of the most comprehensive immigration reform laws, GSICA covers many disparate issues-some connected only by the overarching heading of immigration. Section 2 of GSICA mandates that all public employers, their contractors and subcontractors with 500 or more employees register and participate in the Federal Work Authorization Program by July 1, 2007.(fn5) Smaller employers are phased in over the next two years.(fn6) GSICA also has two tax provisions that are applicable to all employers. First, GSICA prohibits employers from deducting annual wages or remuneration of $600 or more paid for labor services as allowable business expenses for state income tax purposes unless the employee is authorized to work under federal law.(fn7) This tax provision applies only to employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2008. Notably, the law does not apply to any Georgia business exempt from compliance with federal employment verification procedures, any person not directly compensated or employed by the taxpaying employer, and any individual who presents a valid Georgia driver's license or identification card issued by the Georgia Department of Driver Services. Although federal work authorization requires an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form, this driver's license "loophole" may allow a single fraudulent identification form to circumvent the tax deduction requirement. Second, Section 8 requires employers to withhold a 6 percent state income tax from the amount reported on IRS Form 1099 for compensation paid to workers who are unable to provide a valid taxpayer identification number or who have provided an incorrect taxpayer identification number or one issued to a nonresident alien.(fn8) This provision took effect on July 1, 2007...