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Bill Shipp – The wave of the future?

    If historical Georgia had adopted a law similar to the proposed Cherokee County illegal alien renters’ ordinance, the Peach State would be a far different place. Our population would include fewer Irish boozers, English ne’er-do-wells, Yankee carpetbaggers and Florida refugees. We also might have a paucity of talented tenors, exceptional sailors, inspiring preachers and go-go business leaders.
    Let me explain: As you may know, some Cherokee County commissioners have decided on an innovative course to ban many migrant Hispanics. The commissioners hope to force local landlords to take charge of the illegal alien problem. Landlords would be compelled to refuse to rent apartments, houses or even tents to anyone deemed an illegal alien. It would be up to the landlords to decide who could rent property in Cherokee and who couldn’t. A landlord failing to detect an illegal tenant would be punished in accordance with the commissioners’ law.
    At first, this notion sounded nutty — sort of like the Kennesaw city ordinance that required residents to possess firearms. In addition, it seems unfair to force private owners of rental property to perform duties that the powerful federal government refuses to carry out.
    Observers might wonder why Cherokee County’s leaders are not berating their congressmen and senators who betrayed them on the immigration matter instead of threatening sanctions against local business people and homeowners.
    On second thought, the Cherokee ordinance may contain seeds of brilliance. The idea might be expanded statewide, and the rules adjusted. Landlords could be required to turn away other classes of prospective tenants, beyond simply undocumented Latinos. We can think of a long list of unworthies who should be denied domicile.
    Suppose, further, that we had a time machine and could take the Cherokee County plan back to the beginnings of Georgia.
    Consider what might have happened if:
    ‰ Indian landlords on Georgia’s coast had told Lord Oglethorpe that only credit-worthy settlers would be allowed. Many descendants of 18th-century English deadbeats might be wallowing in London jails today instead of claiming membership in Savannah high society. (We sometimes forget why Georgia was founded: To help cleanse England of undesirables and thwart Spanish invaders. Talk about missions not accomplished.)
    ‰ High sheriffs had informed 19th-century freeholders that they could not rent land or houses to any out-of-state person who might be prospecting for gold or to anyone else hoping to prey on gold prospectors. Cherokee County as well as most of North Georgia would still be in the hands of Cherokee Indians.
    ‰ Plantation owners had faced severe fines if they rented to tenant farmers who were not sober, hardworking, Christian citizens. References would be required for sharecropping. Tobacco Road might have become a high-end subdivision.
    ‰ Hotel owners were threatened with jail if they offered long-term lodging to Yankees who wanted to stay in Georgia after the Civil War. Shanty Irish would have been kept out. Atlanta would still be in ruins.
    ‰ Before buying and building on land in the Georgia mountains, thousands of prospective new citizens had been required to renounce their Florida residency and pay income taxes in Georgia. Our hill country would be nearly pristine.
    One can see from this brief “if” list what dramatic differences a tenant enforcement law might make.
    As a statewide statute, the illegal-tenant measure could boost 21st-century tourism. In a short time, visitors could be flocking to Georgia — the only area in the United States in which quaint English remains the sole spoken and written language. Our out-of-state visitors also might tour abandoned carpet mills and dilapidated poultry plants. Guides would explain that those industries collapsed after owners of apartments and small houses chased out most of their worker-tenants.
    Of course, some things would remain the same. Old cars would still be parked on concrete blocks in front yards. Lawns would go uncut, homes unpainted. Violent crime would remain a problem, along with unwed pregnancies, school dropouts and drug abuse. Still, a silver lining would be in place. Everyone involved in those unsavory activities would have their citizenship papers in order. Their landlords would be forced to see to it.

    You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160; or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net.

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