Kemp signs bill forcing sheriffs to enforce federal immigration law • Georgia Recorder

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law Wednesday requiring law enforcement in Georgia to notify federal authorities when undocumented immigrants are arrested.

HB 1105 creates a new immigration law that will result in local governments losing federal funding and charging law enforcement officers and local officials with a misdemeanor for violating sanctuary laws. The impetus for the new law came after the arrest of Venezuelan immigrant Jose Ibarra, who authorities say entered the country illegally, on charges that he murdered 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley, who was jogging on February 22 Killed on a Hill Running Track at the University of Georgia.

The new law, which requires local and state police to identify, arrest and detain undocumented people, was part of a criminal justice package signed by Kemp at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Monroe County.

The Republican governor also signed a controversial law Wednesday that adds 30 more criminal charges that require cash bail for release and imposes new restrictions on charities that receive donations to help get people out of jail.

Kemp said HB 1105, which requires local and state police to identify, arrest and detain undocumented people, has become a priority of Republican legislative leadership following the “senseless death” of Riley.

Failure to enforce the law could result in federal aid being cut from local government budgets, and local officials or employees who violate the law could be convicted of misdemeanors.

“The Biden administration has failed in its duties to secure our southern border and therefore we do not know who has entered our country or where they are going,” Kemp said. “But in Georgia we will do everything in our power to ensure that criminals do not walk free and terrorize communities.”

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a package of criminal justice bills into law on May 1, 2024, during a ceremony at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth. Recorder by Stanley Dunlap/Georgia

Republicans and Democrats disagreed over immigration policy in March near the end of the 2024 legislative session. Democratic lawmakers question the need to impose tougher penalties under a 2009 sanctuary law that already made it illegal for police and officials to withhold information about immigration status from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Critics accuse Republican lawmakers of unfairly demonizing Georgia's Hispanic population, which contributes to the state's economy while feeding families and paying taxes.

Much of HB 1105's rules went into effect Wednesday with the governor's signature. In a few months, the Georgia Department of Corrections and local detention centers will be required to release reports on illegal immigrants.

Starting Jan. 1, supervisors at county jails and municipal detention centers will be required to publish quarterly reports on foreign-born inmates incarcerated.

Additionally, HB 1105 requires the Georgia Department of Corrections to post reports on its website every 90 days starting in October about the immigration status, offenses and home countries of inmates who are not U.S. citizens.

New law adds 18 offenses requiring cash bail

Kemp also signed new legislation Wednesday that criminal justice reform advocates say will lead to greater prison overcrowding for people who can't afford bail and force many others to stay locked up longer before they can appear before a judge.

According to the law, a suspect is required to post a certain amount of money or property as security if he is accused of a state crime punishable by prison or imprisonment. Supporters say the bill aims to curb the number of people who fail to appear in court and are at higher risk of re-offending after being released from jail on a signed bond.

The new law requires cash bail for 30 additional charges, including 18 offenses such as theft, trespassing and forgery.

In Georgia, a judge has the discretion to set the bail amount based on a person's ability to pay.

The law has been criticized as a Republican-backed measure that contradicts progress made under former Republican Gov. Nathan Deal in reforming Georgia's criminal justice system.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia said the bill creates a two-tier, wealth-based justice system. “SB 63 is cruel, costly and counterproductive,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Research shows that incarcerating people only increases crime and costs to taxpayers, and yet Georgia incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other state in the country. SB 63 doubles down on that position and forces even more people to languish in prison because they are poor or mentally ill.”

The bill also prohibits charities, businesses, and individuals from contributing to cash guarantee funds more than three times per year unless they register as a guarantee fund.

Criminal justice reform advocates say new restrictions on cash bail funds benefit a lucrative bail industry that keeps bail fees even after charges are dismissed or a person is acquitted of guilt.

The Atlanta Police Department came under fire last summer after it arrested several organizers of an Atlanta bailout fund who were using donor money to rescue protesters fighting a proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. Atlanta Solidarity Fund organizers were arrested on money laundering and fraud charges, a move many criticized as retaliation for support of the “Stop Cop City” movement protesting the center's construction.