Georgia Senate passes bill to penalize local governments with lax immigration policies • Georgia Recorder

The Georgia Senate passed a bill Thursday that could result in law enforcement agencies and local governments losing federal and state funding and elected officials being removed from office if they fail to comply with illegal immigrant reporting laws.

Thursday's passage of House Bill 301 comes just days after the father of slain nursing student Laken Riley, whose Feb. 22 killing has become a flashpoint in the nationwide border debate, urged Georgia lawmakers to pass tougher immigration law Security and immigration policy in Congress, Georgia and other state legislatures.

Venezuelan immigration officer Jose Ibarra, 26, who immigration authorities say is undocumented, has been charged by Athens-Clarke police with the murder of Riley, 22, who was killed while jogging on a University of Georgia running track.

Thursday's 33-19 vote for House Bill 301 was split along party lines, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers divided over the need to increase penalties. The law gives every resident of the state the right to sue local governments for failing to enforce the state's ban on so-called sanctuary cities, which has been in effect since 2009. Senate Democrats criticized Republicans for demonizing a Georgia population that pays taxes and raises families while leading productive lives.

The day before the Senate voted on the bills, Laken Riley's father, Jason Riley, called on lawmakers to “do more to protect us.”

“Governor Kemp, please declare an invasion to arrest and deport criminal illegals so we can save future families from these tragedies,” Jason Riley said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

According to the American Immigration Council, sanctuary policies are based on the idea that the federal government cannot force local jurisdictions to enforce immigration laws.

The law passed Thursday would require any official who fails to enforce lawful laws to be suspended, which could ultimately lead to them being permanently removed from office by the governor. Suspended officials must prove in court that they are complying with state law before they can return to office.

State and federal funding would also be withdrawn from local governments in violation of the law.

The Senate also passed HB 1105 on Thursday, which would require local and state police to identify, arrest and detain undocumented people.

“If you want to go out there and be a sanctuary city in violation of Georgia law, then you will be held accountable,” said Senator Randy Robertson. “We will be defunding the state funding and the federal funding that we are responsible for.”

“When a local community decides to blatantly violate Georgia law, that’s exactly what happens,” the Cataula Republican said. “You may be mayor, city councilor or county commissioner, but you are not above the laws of Georgia.”

The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute reported in 2020 that about a third of Georgia's 1 million immigrants are undocumented.

Atlanta Democratic Sen. Jason Esteves criticized GOP members for their political stance, such as calling the immigration crisis an “invasion.”

“Our agricultural industry, poultry industry, construction, manufacturing, healthcare workers, every single industry that is touted in this building has exploited this very community,” Esteves said. “A disgrace to every single one of us because there is no one in this chamber who doesn’t know someone who has hired or has hired someone who is not undocumented.”

Sen. Josh McLaurin, a Democrat from Sandy Springs, said HB 301 is problematic and unnecessary when there is already a law prohibiting cities from implementing protections. He also questioned the need to give every resident the opportunity to sue.

“All this bill does is threaten to completely financially wipe out local government through the withdrawal of state and federal funding and threaten to remove every elected official who serves local government. if they do not comply with applicable law,” he said.