Georgia Republicans Call for Financial Penalties for Sanctuary City Policies – WABE

A state Senate committee is calling for penalties for Georgia communities with so-called “sanctuary city” policies that protect undocumented immigrants.

The Public Safety Committee on Wednesday approved a new version of HB301 to impose more financial penalties on jurisdictions the state considers sanctuary cities, even though there is no uniform definition of what a sanctuary city is.

In Georgia, politicians have focused on jurisdictions that do not always cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement when arresting noncitizens unless the crime is serious.

State law prohibits municipalities from taking such actions. In 2009, the state banned sanctuary city policies entirely. In 2016, local governments had to demonstrate compliance with federal immigration rules to receive state money.

“What we've done with this legislation is we've added some teeth because there weren't any in the past,” said Sen. Randy Robertson, who represents Senate District 29 in West Georgia. In his district, less than 5% are immigrants.

But Sen. Kim Jackson, the only Democrat present on the committee, had many questions about the exact financial penalties, in part because the bill's language was introduced for the first time at the start of the session.

HB 301 was originally drafted to change fines for people who drive past a school bus and are caught on camera. Lawmakers later revised HB 301 to address punishments for criminal street gangs instead, before Republican lawmakers ultimately recast it as an immigration bill.

To advance a bill that has not been approved by at least one chamber of the Legislature before the end of the transition period, legislators can delete another bill that has done so and insert the text of their bill in its place.

“I really tried to get copies of the substitutes,” Jackson said. “It’s very frustrating and disappointing that I’m seeing this right now.”

In her East Atlanta district, 20% are immigrants. She feared that the financial penalties listed in the new wording were too broad.

Jackson, the only Democrat present, was the only one to vote against the bill.

HB 301 is one of several bills lawmakers have introduced or amended on immigration in the past two weeks in response to an undocumented Venezuelan migrant being charged in the death of a young woman in Athens.

Other legislation includes HB1105, which would require state and local law enforcement to work with federal immigration authorities to arrest and report people they suspect are in the U.S. illegally – and requires Withholding funding from municipalities that do not comply.