When politicians start talking about cracking down on a given population, it's probably an election year.
Surrounded by officious-looking men clad in blue suits and standing shoulder-to-shoulder -- crowded into the driver's license office near Turner Field -- Gov. Sonny Perdue laid down the smack on immigration at a Sept. 6 press conference. He used the word "criminal" several times in sentences short enough and declarative enough to leave no doubt that when it comes to protecting Georgia from terrorists and illegal immigrants, he means business.
"It is simply unacceptable for people to sneak into this country illegally on Thursday, obtain a government-issued ID on Friday, head for the welfare office on Monday and cast a vote on Tuesday," Perdue said with a hyperbolic flourish that ignored the fact one must register to vote 30 days prior to an election.
Citing the national security threat and saying that seven of the hijackers on 9/11 used identification obtained by illegal means, Perdue said he would request $900,000 to $1 million from the Legislature to station 10 investigators in the 10 "highest-need" driver's license facilities in the state.
Pundits call Perdue's plan a predictable follow-up to Senate Bill 529, which passed earlier this year to become the Georgia Security and Compliance Act.
State Sen. Sam Zamarripa, D-Atlanta, calls Perdue's approach an oversimplification that doesn't focus attention on the accountability of American business and government on the issue of immigration. "Why don't you ask the governor about Senate Bill 529's exemption for road-builders, who are the governor's biggest supporters," Zamrippa says. "If Gov. Perdue were serious about illegal immigration, why doesn't he raid the (Georgia Department of Transportation) and put them in jail?"
But the overall perception is that Perdue risks little by continuing to chew away at the illegal immigrant population.
"The average voter in America feels that Congress has done nothing," says political pundit Matt Towery. "There is the public sense that they're playing politics with immigration. Now Perdue stands up and points this out. He says that Congress hasn't given the public anything tangible on immigration, but he, on the other hand, is. Is this positive for him? Yes. Is it something that's going to win the election for him? No."
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