Guest blog by Charles Kuck, AILA Immediate Past President
I was driving to court recently down a highway in Atlanta when I drove past a toll booth with a HUGE sign on it. The sign read “AMNESTY.” I thought, “wait a second!” “Amnesty” is a dirty word, literally unmentionable in polite company. How could there be an “Amnesty?”
On my way back to the office, I passed the toll booth again. Again, the sign was there. This time I slowed down (a little), and noticed it was a “Toll Amnesty.” This toll “Amnesty” is apparently a regular event in Georgia. I explored a little more about this “Amnesty,” trying to understand how a toll “Amnesty,” turning illegal drivers into legal ones is permitted, but an “Amnesty” that would turn “illegal” people into legal people is not. I dug around a little on the Internet and found some information about the reason for and the goal of this toll “Amnesty:”
What is the toll violation amnesty program?
Normally, the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) charges a $25 administrative fee, as provided by Georgia law, each time someone fails to pay the toll to travel on the tolled section of Georgia 400. During the limited time of this amnesty program, SRTA is willing to reduce a portion of the $25 administrative fee to $15 per violation. During amnesty, the Customer will be responsible for the $15 administrative fee plus the toll per violation.
Why is SRTA offering its customers an opportunity to compromise their violations?
SRTA’s primary goal is to collect all tolls due. We believe one way we can accelerate the collection of unpaid tolls is to offer a temporary financial incentive to our customers – namely, a partial waiver of the normal $25 per violation administrative fee-if the tolls are voluntarily paid now.
So, the toll “Amnesty” is designed to FORGIVE people for breaking law (a misdemeanor in Georgia), bring people out of the shadows if illegality, and, as an incentive to do so, have people pay LESS of a fine than if the agents of the state went out and rounded up everyone who is a toll violator. Does the State of Georgia know who these “illegals” are? Sure they do! If you fail to pay a toll, a photo of your car and license plate is taken, so the State of Georgia knows exactly who broke the law and where they live! If only those Utah state employees lived here, they could have put their “hit” list out for the Georgia State Patrol to go out and arrest these illegal drivers.
Let’s compare a proposed national “Amnesty” (or for those of you with sensitive ears–legalization) with this Georgia “Amnesty.” An immigration “Amnesty” would FORGIVE people for breaking the law (a misdemeanor if they came in illegally and a civil violation if they overstayed their visas), bring people out of the shadows and into our mainstream economy, and lessen the penalties currently in place (a 10 year bar in the home country) to encourage people to come forward right away and become “legal.”
Wow, that is the same rationale for both programs. One run effectively by the State of Georgia and one denied a chance at being effective by national politicians and local demagogues. Why can we do one and not the other? Why can we give “amnesty” to illegal drivers but not to “illegal” people? Simple–a lack of political leadership and a lack of political courage.
Once we can convince our national political leadership that immigration reform is GOOD for America (and it would be very good for America) and that the example set by the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority is a good one to follow, can end this divisive debate over immigration, calm racial tensions in America and get back to work fixing our economy. My only question is — which national politician has the courage to stand up and lead on this key issue?