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The operative word here is "ILLEGAL." Keep this in mind. Georgia and the rest of the country have no problem with legal immigration. It is illegal immigration we all have (at least we all should) an issue with.

I applaud Governor Perdue for signing the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act back in April. The law, designed to combat illegal immigration, won't actually begin to go into effect until July 2007, but the spirit of that law is already beginning to sow seeds of fear within the illegal immigrant community.

Elba Gonzalez said she and her husband, who bought their Smyrna home four years ago with a fraudulent Social Security number, transferred it to a Tax ID number in January.

They had been worried.

"Maybe soon they would throw us out and immigration [officials] might come get us," said Gonzalez, who is from Mexico. "Just watching the news makes one so nervous."

Hi, idiot. You're here illegally, and you probably stole a social security number from a legal resident of the United States. You should be very nervous because you should be thrown out of the country.

Unfortunately, illegal immigration activists have been circulating propaganda that basically combines legal and illegal immigrants into the same pool (as they normally do), spurring many legal immigrants into a belief that they will not be welcome in Georgia. This is patently false.

If you are a legal immigrant, if you are a legal citizen of this country, you can move any damn place you please. Assuming you have the monetary means, you can buy a house in any town, county, or state you so choose to reside within. Do not let shady illegal immigration activists frighten you into believing otherwise. They are thugs. They are lying to you. They are trying to deprive you of what you have earned–legal citizenship.

Immigrants Look At Housing With Caution
Metro lenders, agents report drop in sales

By TERESA BORDEN, BRIAN FEAGANS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/04/06


Real estate agent Graciela Vizcarra (right) shows a house in Marietta to potential buyers Efrian Mandujano (from left), his wife, Marisol, and his mother, Amelia. Real estate agents says Latino buyers have cooled their search for homes in the Atlanta area.
Home buying among Latinos in metro Atlanta has slowed significantly in recent months amid jitters over immigration reform, say real estate agents and lenders who cater to the Spanish-speaking community.

The cooldown is an early sign that a new Georgia law intended to reduce illegal immigration, enacted less than two months ago, could be having an effect. Many prospective buyers also are apparently waiting for a resolution to the pitched battle in Congress over what to do with the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

"There's no question that there's a panic in the Hispanic community," said Raymond Amengual, a lender with AHM Mortgage, which specializes in a Hispanic market that has its share of illegal immigrants. "The problem is not so much their immigration status as the new laws that make them think they might not be able to work."

Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), the original sponsor of the legislation designed to combat illegal immigration in Georgia, said he had little sympathy for lenders and real estate agents who build their business on what he calls questionable transactions. The new law "has begun to reach its intended purpose if these people are not choosing Georgia as their permanent residence," he said.

Illegal immigrants buy homes with Social Security numbers that don't belong to them or with legal Individual Tax Identification Numbers commonly called Tax IDs. These numbers, issued by the Internal Revenue Service, allow people in the country illegally to pay their taxes. The IRS issued more than 1.2 million tax identification numbers in 2003, the most recent year for which figures are available. Advocates say illegal immigrants perceive paying taxes as a way to establish a financial record that might help them if Congress decides they should get a path to legalization.

Some lenders see Tax ID borrowers as good risks because of their steady pay records. Amengual says eight of every 10 of his clients use the Tax IDs. But he's feeling the slowdown now. Amengual, who averaged 10 loans a month last year, said that figure has dropped to three a month this spring.

Metro Atlanta real estate agents who cater to Tax ID buyers are seeing similar drops.

Graciela Vizcarra, a ReMax agent who shows houses in Cobb County, said she's gone from four closings a month to one or two. Felipe Bernal, an agent whose area includes Cobb, Gwinnett and Rockdale counties, said his usual eight or nine closings a month has dropped to two or three. And Victor Saldaña, a real estate broker in Norcross, has had three closings in the past two months, one-third of his usual total.

"People are holding back to see what's going to happen," said Saldaña, a Mexico native whose clients are primarily Spanish-speaking.

Bernal said some prospective buyers are legal immigrants but have family members who are not. "They say 'What about my wife?' " he said " 'What about my sons? They could kick them out.' "

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act into law in April. The act, whose provisions take effect in several phases beginning in July 2007, will make it harder for employers to deduct the wages they pay illegal immigrant from their state taxes. It also requires illegal immigrants jailed for a felony or driving under the influence to be reported to immigration officials.

At the federal level, Congress is bitterly divided over whether to grant legal status to most illegal immigrants, including up to an estimated 800,000 in Georgia.

The increased attention on illegal immigration has led some homeowners who used fraudulent Social Security numbers to either sell their houses or refinance them using a tax identification number. Elba Gonzalez said she and her husband, who bought their Smyrna home four years ago with a fraudulent Social Security number, transferred it to a Tax ID number in January.

They had been worried.

"Maybe soon they would throw us out and immigration [officials] might come get us," said Gonzalez, who is from Mexico. "Just watching the news makes one so nervous."

Eliezer Velez, of Atlanta's Latin American Association, says he has heard from a number of Hispanics in a similar spot.

"Fearful clients have begun to call us saying they want to sell their houses," Velez said. "They feel unprotected because of the new law, and they say Georgia is not a state where they feel secure."

How much the pause in home-buying among some Latinos will affect the national real estate market is difficult to tell. But housing industry professionals say much of the future growth in their industry hinges on minorities and immigrants, legal and illegal, because the Anglo population is not expanding as fast.

"I know a lot of lenders are looking to get involved in this market," said Steve O'Connor, a vice president with the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, an industry group. "The No. 1 priority among lenders is to help immigrants and minorities."

A 2004 study by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals put the home-buying potential of illegal immigrants at about $44 billion. Founder Gary Acosta has since revised that figure to about $65 billion, nearly 12 percent of the overall first-time home buyer market of $560 billion.

"There's clear uncertainty with respect to how this immigration debate is going to play out," he said. "People are going to be a little more cautious in terms of their approach."

Dean Baker, co-director for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal-leaning think tank that researches social and economic issues, believes illegal immigrant home buyers are still too small a part of the market to affect overall sales.

But home ownership is easier than ever for them. Five lenders have Tax ID lending programs in metro Atlanta now, compared with one in 2000. And the requirements for such loans are loosening. In 2000, an Tax ID loan required a 15 percent down payment and interest rates were standard at 10 percent. Now, a buyer can put down 3 percent of the price and pay an interest rate of 7 percent higher than a conventional loan but more affordable than before.

The upgrades haven't been enough to overcome immigration concerns recently, however. For Saldaña, the real estate broker from Norcross, that has meant shifting strategies. He's focusing more on clients trying to sell their homes. And Saldaña recently ordered 5,000 glossy mailers, part of a more aggressive marketing campaign.

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