Said to be one of the toughest state laws in the nation just signed today by Georgia's governor.
"We cannot tolerate activity that distracts us from embracing those who come here legally and thrive," the governor said upon signing the legislation into law.
Hours before the signing, about 200 demonstrators gathered on the capitol steps to support the measure, which they say will duplicate existing federal law. The law will deny many state services to adults who are in the country illegally and penalize employers who hire illegal immigrants.
"Your coming to America does not give you the right to tread on the American law. Abide by the immigration laws that are in tact today," said Rep. Melvin Emerson, R-Gwinnett County.
The counter rally did not come close to the gathering of nearly 50,000 people who marched through DeKalb County last week to demand recognition for illegal immigrants. However, organizers of the counter rally on Monday disagreed with the theme of the original march and said it does not matter what the economic impact of illegal labor is.
"Let's assume that each state could make a $1 billion profit from not enforcing existing law. Would we be willing to do that and, if so, which other laws maybe could we ignore to further increase our profit?" asked organizer D.A. King.
"For me and most of us here, it is about the rule of law upon which our nation was founded and there really is no other agenda."
Organizers of the counter rally said they would like Congress to go even further with harsher penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants and the possibility of prison time.
The Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act will verify that adults seeking many state-administered benefits are in the country legally. It sanctions employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and mandates that companies with state contracts check the immigration status of their employees.
The law also will require police to check the immigration status of people they arrest to see if they face deportation orders.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says the measure is believed to be the first comprehensive immigration bill to make it through a statehouse this session. Many of the new law's provisions will not take effect until 2007.
The bill drew protests at Georgia's state Capitol and prompted a daylong work stoppage by some immigrants earlier this month. "