Obama criticizes new Georgia immigration law

ATLANTA Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:43pm EDT

President Barack Obama pauses during his remarks at a fundraiser at Soundstage 30 at Sony Picture Studios in Los Angeles, California, April 21, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

President Barack Obama pauses during his remarks at a fundraiser at Soundstage 30 at Sony Picture Studios in Los Angeles, California, April 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday criticized an immigration bill passed by Georgia's Legislature that would give police authority to question suspects about their immigration status.

Obama also defended his administration's record on securing U.S. borders and repeated his call for comprehensive immigration reform.

The Georgia bill is similar to one passed by Arizona last year that sparked a national debate on state attempts to crack down on illegal immigration.

Arizona's law criminalizes illegal immigration by defining it as trespass and allows local law enforcement agencies to question anyone they suspect lacks correct immigration papers.

Asked about the Georgia bill, Obama said: "It is a mistake for states to try to do this piecemeal. We can't have 50 different immigration laws around the country. Arizona tried this and a federal court already struck them down."

"The truth of the matter is that we've done more on enforcement than any previous administration. We have more border patrols. We have been engaging in serious crackdowns on employers who are hiring undocumented workers," Obama said in an interview with WSB-TV, which is based in Atlanta.

Georgia's Senate passed the bill this month but stripped out a state House requirement for many private employers to check the immigration status of newly hired employees on a federal database called E-Verify.

Republican Governor Nathan Deal told local television on Tuesday he was reviewing the legislation but planned to sign it into law.

A U.S. appeals court this month upheld an earlier court ruling that blocked parts of Arizona's immigration law from going into effect.

That included a provision that would require police to determine the immigration status of a person they have detained and suspect is in the country illegally.

Arizona-inspired immigration measures also are proceeding through legislatures in other states including Alabama, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

(Writing by Matthew Bigg; Editing by Peter Bohan)

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