Immigration law hits Georgia real estate, housing industry hard

With the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 effective in Georgia since January 1, the Georgia Real Estate Commission foresees the law affecting about 95,000 of its current real estate license holders and appraiser license holders.

According to the law, after January 1, all licensees up for renewal must furnish a verifiable source of identification as well as a signed affidavit that validates the licensee’s lawful residence in the United States, which could include a green card or work visa.

If license-holders were eligible for renewal, they could renew their licenses prior to December 31, 2011 without the additional documents. However, documents needed to be received prior to or on the deadline or else the licenses would lapse, causing applicants to have to undergo the new licensing procedures.

With real estate licenses likely to be revoked in the upcoming months, Georgia’s housing market may take a big hit in 2012, as well.  According to Rebecca Sims, assistant professor of political science at Georgia Highlands College, Georgia had the sixth-largest illegal immigrant population in the United States between 2000 and 2009. Taking illegal immigrants out of the state’s housing market will likely reduce the money in the state’s coffers.

Many politicians and state leaders have criticized illegal immigrants for not paying their fair share of taxes, saying that they drain resources that should go to legal residents. However, the Illegal Immigration Policy Center keeps track of a multitude of state-level studies that look at the contributions of illegal immigrants. Georgia’s 2006 study by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute found that illegal immigrants contributed between $215.6 million and $252.5 million to the state’s property, sales and income tax, with the average family paying between $2,340 and $2,470 annually to local tax pools.