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New laws in 2012 deal with immigration

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 28 2011 11:21 p.m. MST

In this Dec. 12, 2011 photo, Irvis Orozco, 24, a senior studying international relations at the University of California, Davis, poses on campus in Davis, Calif. A new law that will take effect Jan. 1, 2012, will allow Orozco, who was brought to the country illegally from Mexico when he was an infant, to receive private financial aid at California's public colleges.

Associated Press

Girls seeking abortions in New Hampshire must first tell their parents or a judge, employers in Alabama must verify new workers' U.S. residency, and California students will be the first in the country to receive mandatory lessons about the contributions of gays and lesbians under state laws set to take effect at the start of 2012.

Many laws reflect the nation's concerns over immigration, the cost of government and the best way to protect and benefit young people, including regulations on sports concussions.

Alabama, with the country's toughest immigration law, is enacting a key provision requiring all employers who do business with any government entity to use a federal system known as E-Verify to check that all new employees are in the country legally.

Georgia is putting a similar law into effect requiring any business with 500 or more employees to use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of new hires. The requirement is being phased in, with all employers with more than 10 employees to be included by July 2013.

Supporters said they wanted to deter illegal immigrants from coming to Georgia by making it tougher for them to work. Critics said that changes to immigration law should come at the federal level and that portions of the law already in effect are already hurting Georgia.

"It is destroying Georgia's economy and it is destroying the fabric of our social network in South Georgia," Paul Bridges, mayor of the onion-farming town of Uvalda, said in November. He is part of a lawsuit challenging the new law.

Tennessee will also require businesses to ensure employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S. but exempts employers with five or fewer workers and allows them to keep a copy of the new hire's driver's license instead of using E-Verify.

A South Carolina law would allow officials to yank the operating licenses of businesses that don't check new hires' legal status through E-verify. A federal judge last week blocked parts of the law that would have required police to check the immigration status of criminal suspects or people stopped for traffic violations they think might be in the country illegally, and that would have made it a crime for illegal immigrants to transport or house themselves.

California is also addressing illegal immigration, but with a bill that allows students who entered the country illegally to receive private financial aid at public colleges.

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