Immigration Laws Passed by Georgia Legislature – WABE

Immigration continued to be the focus of attention at the Capitol this week as Laken Riley's father spoke out against immigrants who are in the country illegally and lawmakers passed three controversial immigration bills.

On Wednesday, Republican Sen. Colton Moore honored the 22-year-old nursing student who was killed while running on the University of Georgia campus. A Venezuelan migrant who illegally crossed the border into Texas was arrested in connection with her murder, and since then lawmakers have shown particular interest in creating tougher immigration laws in the state.

“My vision for every senator in this chamber is that you protect citizens from this illegal invasion,” Riley’s father, Jason, said as he spoke on the Senate floor. “Please note that Athens-Clarke is a sanctuary city and this policy and lack of action led to the murder of my daughter.”

In 2009, Georgia banned sanctuary city policies. In 2016, local governments had to demonstrate compliance with federal immigration rules to receive state money.

On Thursday, state senators passed a bill that would allow residents to report governments they believe are pursuing sanctuary city policies to the county superior court. The bill would punish the defendants by eliminating some state funding and removing elected officials.

HB301 passed largely along party lines.

Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones said in a statement: “The Georgia Senate’s replacement of HB301 strengthens our existing sanctuary cities law by finally giving citizens the opportunity to ensure that local governments that implement dangerous sanctuary cities are held accountable for their actions become.”

Another bill that, among other things, includes provisions for sanctuary cities was passed on a bipartisan basis on Thursday.

HB1105 has attracted the most attention because it imposes provisions requiring state and local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security. Opponents of the bill say it will force local officials to take on some duties in enforcing immigration law.

The bill also creates misdemeanor charges for people who violate the state's existing anti-sanctuary city law.

HB1105 faces widespread opposition from organizations that support immigrants and refugees. Before the Senate heard the bill, several immigrant rights advocacy groups protested outside the state capitol. The protests came after weeks of calls for lawmakers to vote against the bills. Advocates and community members said they were rooted in anti-immigrant rhetoric fueled by the upcoming presidential election.

Supporters also protested against a bill that would ban “foreign adversaries” from purchasing agricultural land or land near military bases. Members of the Georgia House of Representatives passed this bill, SB420, on Thursday.

Draft laws with similar wording have emerged in recent legislative periods.

Republicans said this would protect national security and the bill relies on the U.S. Commerce Secretary to define which countries are foreign adversaries. Currently, China, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, Iran and Venezuela are on this list.

Democrats agreed that national security should be the top priority, but said this bill would inadvertently increase racial profiling.

“I personally have been accused of being a Chinese Communist Party agent, a spy, an agent, an un-American and a foreign activist, just this week,” said Rep. Michelle Au. She is chair of the Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus.

“That knee-jerk, reactive, exuberant response and the assumptions that people make about people who look like me … are actually part of the phenomenon that makes SB420 such a bad bill,” she said.

All three bills must receive final approval in their original chambers before being sent to Governor Kemp for his signature.