By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 21, 2008
At a committee hearing this week, the Georgia Catholic Conference opposed a proposal at the Georgia Statehouse that would allow authorities to seize the cars of illegal immigrants.
The proposed legislation, HB 978, allows a police officer to seize a vehicle involved in a traffic violation or accident, if driven by an undocumented worker, without regard for guilt. The House Special Rules Committee heard testimony on the issue Monday, Feb. 18, and voted in favor of the measure 5-0. Legislators will vote on the measure next.
Rep. James Mills (R-Gainesville) said he introduced the bill after hearing about the losses of constituents who have had family members killed during car crashes when the other driver was an undocumented worker without insurance.
He said the goal is to protect the lives of Georgia residents.
However, immigrant advocates said the legislation is poorly written, gives police too much authority to make on-the-spot decisions and would harm the poor.
Pat Chivers, communications director for the Atlanta Archdiocese, said the measure is extremely harsh. She said police could seize cars for the smallest offenses with only cursory review of the driver’s legal status.
Also, a car is a tool to a family’s wellbeing, she said. If a car is taken, people cannot provide for their families without transportation, she said.
Immigration violations are a federal issue and need to be addressed with federal law, she said.
The proposed law is one of a series of measures being debated at the legislature to combat illegal immigration in Georgia.
Also on Monday, Frank Mulcahy, executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, spoke in front of a Georgia House subcommittee against House Resolution 536, the “Human Life Amendment.”
He repeated the statement by Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah that the proposal would not help reduce abortions in the state.
“Speaking as a pro-life organization, we would be reluctant to see a case come before the court where there is no possibility for a pro-life decision, but a possibility the court would reaffirm Roe v. Wade,” Mulcahy said.
However, the legislation’s supporters said it would be the right tool to overturn legal abortion in this country. “Now is the time. Georgia is the place. Let us vote and let them live,” said Rep. Martin Scott (R-Rossville), who initiated the resolution.
The measure has divided groups that oppose legalized abortions. The Georgia Right to Life organization is backing the effort, while the Catholic Church and National Right to Life do not endorse it.