Georgia House Targets Illegal Immigrants After Athens Murder |

State Representative Houston Gaines

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would require local law enforcement agencies to comply with a 2006 state law targeting illegal immigration.

House Bill 1105, which passed 97-74 on mostly party lines, follows the killing of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student, last week on the University of Georgia campus in Athens. A 26-year-old Venezuelan who was allegedly in the country illegally has been charged with the crime.

The bill requires local sheriffs and jailers to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Those who fail to determine the nationality of suspects held in local jails and notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when they have a suspected illegal immigrant in custody will face forfeiture of state and state-authorized federal funds.

“Georgia law already prohibits sanctuary cities,” Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, told his House colleagues before Thursday’s vote. “House Bill 1105 will ensure that sanctuary policies are not entrenched in our local governments.”

“We have the largest border crisis in our country’s history,” added Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, the bill’s lead sponsor. “Millions are entering our country illegally. We don’t know who they are.”

But Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Atlanta, said the legislation would force local law enforcement to focus their efforts on tracking down illegal immigrants instead of allowing them to focus on those who commit violent crimes regardless of their nationality.

“It gets into the hands of law enforcement trying to deal with high crime,” she said.

Other opponents argued that the legislation would lead to a form of racial profiling that would discourage law-abiding citizens with brown skin or foreign accents from coming forward to report criminal activity.

“Fewer people who are afraid of being suspected will 'see something, say something,'” said Rep. Marvin Lim, D-Norcross.

The bill now heads to the Georgia Senate.