Home Immigration Law Georgia Senate passes bill to punish local governments with lax immigration policies

Georgia Senate passes bill to punish local governments with lax immigration policies

Georgia Senate passes bill to punish local governments with lax immigration policies

(Georgia Recorder) – The Georgia State 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.

The House's passage of Bill 301 on Thursday came just days after the father of slain nursing student Laken Riley urged Georgia state lawmakers to pass stricter immigration law. His Feb. 22 murder had become a flashpoint in the national debate over border security and immigration policy in Congress, Georgia and other state legislatures.

Jose Ibarra, 26, an undocumented Venezuelan citizen, has been charged by Athens-Clarke police with the murder of 22-year-old Riley, who died while jogging on a running track at the University of Georgia.

Thursday's vote on House Bill 301, which passed 33-19, was split along party lines, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers disagreeing on the need to increase penalties. The law gives any state resident the right to sue local governments if they fail to enforce a ban on so-called sanctuary laws that has been in place since 2009. Senate Democrats criticized Republicans for demonizing a Georgia population that pays taxes, raises families and leads productive lives at the same time.

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

“Governor Kemp, please declare an invasion to arrest and deport illegal criminals so we can spare future families from such tragedies,” Jason Riley said on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

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

The law passed Thursday says any official who fails to enforce the law will be suspended, which could ultimately lead to the governor removing them from office permanently. Suspended officials will have to prove in court that they are complying with state law before they can return to office.

In addition, local governments would be unlawfully deprived of state and federal funding.

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

“If you want to become a sanctuary city and you violate Georgia law, you will be held accountable,” said Senator Randy Robertson. “We will cut the state and federal funding that we are responsible for.”

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

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

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

“Our agriculture, poultry, construction, manufacturing, health care, every single industry that is being touted in this building has exploited this very community,” Esteves said. “Shame on every single one of us, because there is not a person in this room who doesn't know someone who has hired or has hired someone who is not undocumented.”

Senator Josh McLaurin, a Democrat from Sandy Springs, said HB 301 is problematic and unnecessary because there is already a law prohibiting cities from implementing sanctuary policies. He also questioned the need to allow every resident the right to sue.

“This bill simply threatens the total financial obliteration of local government by stripping them of state and federal funding and threatening to fire all elected officials who serve local government if they do not comply with applicable law,” he said.