Updated:ATLANTA — House members voted to keep a key provision of an immigration reform bill just hours after state senators voted to remove it.
Just before 11 p.m. Monday, the state Senate passed its version of immigration reform. However, senators removed the section requiring private companies to use the government's e-verify system to check the immigration status of their employees. Critics said the Senate caved to business interests. Some Georgia businesses, particularly agriculture, oppose the bill because they fear it will hurt them and the state's economy.
But state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, the House sponsor of the bill, believes the Senate took the teeth right out of immigration reform.
"The No. 1 reason illegals are coming here is for access for jobs," Ramsey told Channel 2's Richard Elliot. "So doing an illegal immigration reform bill that doesn't get at the No. 1 incentive illegal aliens are coming to Georgia to me is a sham."
Ramsey and other supporters fought to return the e-verify provision into the bill. The bill is headed back to the Senate since the House changes.
State Rep. Pedro "Pete" Marin, D-Gwinnett, a long-time opponent of the bill, told Elliot he thinks senators made the decision based on business interests.
"One of the main purposes of this legislation was e-verify and seeing that they took that section out, well, you know, I think they heard loudly from the business community," said Marin.
Including Tuesday, there are only two days left in the 2011 legislative session.