Georgia and other GOP-led states push for tougher immigration policies – WABE

Republican lawmakers across the country were already busy pushing their states more into immigration enforcement when the Supreme Court allowed Texas, albeit briefly, to enforce a new law giving police broad powers to arrest migrants who are suspected of having crossed the border illegally.

Within hours on Tuesday, another court blocked the Texas law again. On the same day, Iowa passed a similar law.

In New Hampshire, lawmakers are close to passing a law that would allow police to file trespassing charges against people suspected of entering the U.S. illegally from Canada.

Republicans in Georgia have advanced a proposal that would require eligible cities and counties to obtain agreements to conduct some immigration-related enforcement activities in prisons to help the federal government after police accused a Venezuelan man of killing nursing student Laken Riley on the campus University of Georgia beaten to death. According to immigration authorities, the man entered the United States illegally in 2022. It is unclear whether he has applied for asylum.

On Wednesday, the Senate honored Riley's family. During the ceremony, her father, Jason Riley, blamed his daughter's death on immigration protection policies in Athens, where the University of Georgia is located, and called on Gov. Brian Kemp to declare an “invasion,” Texas' argument for one Series of escalatory measures along the border to be defended. Last month, a federal judge in Texas rejected those claims while blocking the state's new arrest law.

“A man with an evil heart stole her life. He was in this country and in this state illegally,” Jason Riley said. “My vision for every senator in this chamber is that you protect citizens from this illegal invasion.”

In the meantime, it remains to be seen which Republican-led states, many of which are pushing different bills and sending their National Guard members to the border, will adopt the Texas-style bill, especially if another court ruling supports the policy. Oklahoma isn't waiting to test the water — House and Senate Republican leaders welcomed the idea of ​​a Texas-style anti-immigration law, and House Speaker Charles McCall announced plans Wednesday to immediately introduce a similar measure .

The Biden administration is suing to block the Texas measure, arguing it is a clear violation of federal sovereignty that would create chaos in immigration law and have a devastating impact on international relations.

Lawmakers in Tennessee are moving toward the goal of a proposal to require law enforcement there to communicate with federal immigration authorities if they determine people are in the country illegally. For the brief period in which Texas had the all-clear to enforce its law on Tuesday, speakers of the Tennessee House and Senate expressed willingness to consider a similar policy.

“We are monitoring the situation in Texas as Governor Abbott works to protect his state,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

Muzaffar Chishti, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, said this type of immigration policy is typically driven by political motivations and creates serious complications for law enforcement agencies that lack immigration expertise and have few resources.

“Training a group of state officials in an area of ​​enforcement in which they have no background knowledge or training is an operational problem,” Chishti said.

Under the Iowa bill, entry into the state after previously being denied entry into the U.S. would become a serious misdemeanor or felony under certain circumstances, including while being arrested for another crime.

“The federal government has abdicated its responsibility and states can and must act,” said Republican Rep. Steven Holt.

Democratic MP Sami Scheetz argued that immigration is constitutionally the responsibility of the federal government.

“Illegal immigration is a serious problem that requires action, but the approach laid out in this bill misses the core of what it truly means to address this problem with compassion, wisdom and effectiveness,” Scheetz said.

The bill, which is awaiting Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds' signature, would take effect July 1.

New Hampshire's border law with Canada, meanwhile, would follow just 21 apprehensions in the state between October 2022 and December 2023, even as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area, which includes New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Maine, has seen a dramatic increase illegal border activities since 2021.

The Republican-led New Hampshire Senate passed the trespassing bill last month. Republicans have a narrower majority in the House, but the bill's sponsor, Senate President Jeb Bradley, expects it to pass.

Even if the Texas law is shelved again, the former U.S. representative believes the courts are giving states more power, which bodes well for laws like his.

“The magnitude of the problem has gotten significantly worse,” Bradley said Wednesday. “We can’t wait for Congress.”

Some Democratic-led states are seeking to expand immigrant rights, including Maryland, where lawmakers are moving closer to a bill that would seek a federal exemption to purchase health insurance through the state's health care exchange, regardless of immigration status.

In Massachusetts, which is struggling to find housing for thousands of migrants pouring into the state, a bill is being proposed that would limit the length of time homeless people can stay in government shelters to nine months, with an additional three months for workers or job training graduates programs.

Earlier this month, Arizona's Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed a bill modeled after the Texas law. Since then, Republican lawmakers have vowed to pass a similar bill and send it to Hobbs.

Arizona lawmakers are pursuing a measure that would seek voter approval, bypassing a possible Hobbs veto, and require local governments that receive state money for social programs to use a federal employment verification database to verify Recipients are legally in the U.S. and remove those who are not from the program.

Opponents view the Texas law as the most dramatic federal attempt to control immigration since an Arizona law enacted more than a decade ago that was largely overturned by the Supreme Court. This bill would have allowed police to arrest people for federal immigration violations, often referred to by opponents as the “show me your papers” bill.

Among the various legislative proposals in Republican-led states, Georgia has another bill that would penalize cities and counties that Republicans say use so-called sanctuary policies to house immigrants who are in the country illegally by eliminating most federal aid of local government and the removal of elected officials from office.

Florida has already passed legislation to increase penalties for immigrants entering the country illegally who are convicted of driving without a license or committing crimes.

Tennessee is also considering allowing judges to sentence anyone in the country to life in prison without parole for a violent crime involving a deadly weapon or on school grounds illegally. Another Tennessee proposal would make it a misdemeanor to knowingly or recklessly transport someone who is in the country illegally into the state.

Immigrants were holding an advocacy day at the Tennessee Capitol on Tuesday as the Supreme Court's preliminary ruling came down, shocking the group. Lisa Sherman Luna, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, said the Texas law sets a “terrible precedent” for communities and the country.

“How 'unified' will our states be if they each have different laws about who can call them home?” Luna said.


Jeff Amy in Atlanta; Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire; Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City; Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis; Steve LeBlanc in Boston; Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix; and Scott McFetridge in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.