Georgia Senate committee narrowly passes immigration measure

A Georgia Senate committee narrowly approved a controversial immigration measure on Thursday.

House Bill 1105, if passed by the state Senate and signed into law, would require Georgia law enforcement agencies to comply with so-called ICE detainers – requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold suspected undocumented migrants for up to 48 hours hold on for a long time. That's something some agencies, including the Clarke County Sheriff's Office, don't do.

At a Senate Public Safety Committee hearing Thursday, Laura Rivera, a staff attorney at Just Futures Law, said the bill raises constitutional questions.

“This order to jail every person with an ICE detainee puts local governments at risk of damages lawsuits for violations of the federal Fourth Amendment,” Rivera told senators. “This requires a warrant based on probable cause, a touchstone of the 4th Amendment, as my colleague said. This requires a neutral judge's determination that the facts establish probable cause. Detainees do not guarantee probable cause because there is no neutral judge reviewing them.”

This mandate to jail every person with an ICE detainee puts local governments at risk of federal damages suits for violations of the Fourth Amendment.

Laura Rivera, Senior Attorney, Just Futures Law

That's not the case, said state Rep. Jesse Petrea, a Republican from Savannah and a supporter of the bill.

“If you look at recent decisions in Florida and Texas, you will see that provisions like this have been followed,” he said.

Mark Perkins, a Clarkston city councilman, also testified against the bill. He said the bill would place even more strain on already overburdened local police departments.

“It really comes down to the additional administrative burden on our departments,” Perkins said. “We currently have unfilled positions, even though our department, our chief, is working incredibly hard to fill those positions. That’s why I encourage you to reject this bill in its current form.”

State Representative Houston Gaines, a Republican from Athens, testified in favor of the measure.

“We know that the southern border is a disaster. I mean, what our federal government is doing hasn’t worked,” Gaines said. “But we also have local governments that have failed us and we have issues that we need to address, and I think House Bill 1105 is a really important step forward.”

Gaines said the bill is about enforcing laws that already exist in Georgia.

“What 1105 is doing is taking what is already the law, making sure it actually happens,” Gaines said.

What [this bill] is doing what is already the law, ensuring that it actually happens.

Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens)

Sen. John Albers, a Republican from Roswell and chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said the bill is a good compromise measure.

“The word compromise is not a dirty word. It's a good word, and we should do it more often to build consensus. I think this is a very balanced bill,” Albers told his colleagues.

HB 1150 passed the Public Safety Committee on a party-line vote of 5-3. It will now go to the Senate Rules Committee and from there likely to the full Senate for a vote.