Crowds rally outside the Georgia State Capitol on Thu., Mar. 24, 2011.
ATLANTA -- While debate rages in the Georgia legislature over proposed immigration reform, some critics say Georgia is threatening to go beyond Arizona's controversial law.
"This is like the Arizona law on steroids," said immigration lawyer Charles Kuck.
"A lot of folks are trying to invoke the Arizona name because it conjures up ideas of profiling," said State Representative Ed Setzler of Acworth. "It's nowhere in this bill. No fair minded assessment of this bill can suggest that."
Kuck, who is on the board of directors for the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, has studied the immigration bills now before the Georgia House of Representatives and Georgia Senate.
Among the proposals he finds more extreme than the Arizona law is a one to create a new offense called "aggravated identity fraud." Anyone caught using fake documents to get a job would face as much as
10 years and a 100-thousand dollar fine for the first offense, 15 years and a 250-thousand dollar fine for a second offense.
"That's extreme," said Kuck. "It's beyond the pale. We're really punishing people for working?"
Supporters of the change point out these are maximum penalties that would be reserved for those profiting the most from their illegal status.
"If people are poor coming across the border to get a low wage job, courts are not going to assign high financial penalties to them," said Rep. Setzler.
Kuck claims another part of the bill now before the House of Representatives would allow hearsay evidence against an accused illegal immigrant.
"So rather than being able to confront your accuser in court, now you can only confront the person who says what your accuser told them," said Kuck.
Rep. Setzler said the bill is consistent with current federal laws.
"It clarifies federal documents that speak to immigration as solid evidence, and don't represent hearsay," said Rep. Setzler.