Georgia's Republican Governor Kemp and the state legislature support illegal immigration

By Joe Guzzardi, syndicated columnist

In Georgia, which has recently been solidly red, then gradually purple, and now increasingly blue, even the last remnants of Republican leadership have embraced policies that reward illegal immigration. GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and the GOP-led state Legislature have given their blessing to the taxpayer-funded Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), designed as a job development initiative. Presented as an employee “training” program for employers who would rely on the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) for training, which could then pay the employer $50,000 upon completion of its employee's training.

The TCSG brilliantly identifies RAP as a robust, comprehensive training model that helps employers convert and develop entry-level employees into highly skilled talent. RAPs, the flattering narrative continues, “serve[s] as a strategy to build talent pipelines and retain qualified employees.” RAP is part of and funded by the High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI) program, which does not exclude illegal immigrants, a fact that interested parties have yet to discover in detail.

In November 2022, Kemp's office distributed a media release outlining the origins of HDCI: “During the 2022 legislative session, Governor Kemp and the Legislature jointly passed SB 379, representing a historic investment in apprenticeship training in Georgia through the HDCI program.” The HDCI program provides up to $50,000 in grants to Georgia businesses to upskill workers through registered apprenticeships and develop skilled talent in Georgia’s high-demand industries.”

Curious about RAP, HDCI and what the flowery language about the programs might obscure, Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society founder DA King sent out a barrage of emails asking whether illegal immigrants and/or H-1B visa workers could be included in the RAP programs.

King received these answers. In response to King’s request, Kimberly Burgess, training coordinator at TCSG’s Coastal Pines Technical College, wrote, “Undocumented immigrants are eligible to participate in RAP. And from Danny Mitchell, HDCI program manager in TCSG’s Office of Workforce Development: “H1B workers [whose visas are classified as temporary] participate in the RAP/HDCI program.”

In his ongoing effort to clarify the eligibility of illegal immigrants, King also sent a request for comment to Governor Kemp's office: “…is there a provision in state law created by SB 379 of 2022 that identifies illegal immigrants as employers and employees, “Why do you not have access to the taxpayer-funded training program at any level based on this press release from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia?” After a “DA, call us back…” voicemail from Kemp's then-executive counsel David Dove, King eventually received a non-response from Garrison Douglas, Kemp's press secretary, in the form of a Twitter/X message that included a link to a code section (OCGA 50-36-1) that he claimed “should answer” his question. However, Douglas' answer did not address the question.

The irony is that taxpayers, with the blessing of Georgia state officials, fund programs that prepare illegal immigrants for good white-collar jobs, even though hiring, aiding and abetting illegal immigrants through the programs is a federal crime.

Kemp will leave in 2026 and is seeking higher office with a likely Senate run against incumbent Democrat Jon Ossoff and a possible presidential run in 2028. A media report summed up Kemp's political skills as follows: “Kemp plays politics like a master chess – always several moves ahead.” He has demonstrated a wisdom over the last five years that is at odds with his simple country boy persona, and he has “built a brand as a next-generation conservative.”

But if immigration remains voters' top concern, Kemp will be vulnerable to a real enforcement challenger. Voters must break through Kemp's smoke and mirrors program that claims he is cracking down on illegal immigration when in reality, as RAP proves, he rewards it.

Joe Guzzardi is an analyst at the Institute for Sound Public Policy who has written about immigration for more than 30 years.