Laken Riley's death spurs new immigration law in Georgia

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a series of public safety bills Wednesday, including a controversial measure to crack down on illegal immigration.

House Bill 1105, which the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed largely along party lines, would require local sheriffs and the Georgia Department of Corrections to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when they have a suspected illegal immigrant in custody have.

The bill gained momentum after Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student, was murdered on the University of Georgia campus in Athens. A 26-year-old Venezuelan who was allegedly in the country illegally has been charged with the crime.

“The Biden administration has failed in its duty to secure our southern border, and because of that we do not know who is entering our country or where they are going,” Kemp said during a bill-signing ceremony at the Georgia Public Training Safety Center in the town of Forsyth.

“In Georgia, we will do everything in our power to ensure criminals do not walk free and terrorize our communities.”

During debate on the bill, legislative Democrats argued the bill would lead to racial profiling and divert local law enforcement's attention from pursuing all violent criminals, not just those in the country illegally.

Democrats also rejected Senate Bill 63, which adds a long list of crimes ineligible for non-cash bail. These range from murder and rape to non-violent crimes such as possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Opponents of the bill said it would force suspects accused of minor crimes to remain in prison, even if the crimes they are accused of do not carry a prison sentence if convicted.

But Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, who prioritized the bill, said banning cashless bail will keep Georgians safe.

“We will not allow criminals to roam freely on our streets,” he said.

Another Jones-backed bill that Kemp signed Thursday — Senate Bill 421 — increases penalties for “swatting” and drive-by shootings. Swatting became a problem during this year's legislative session after a wave of false reports of criminal activity sent police to targeted victims' homes or offices, wasting law enforcement resources and potentially jeopardizing security.

The governor also signed Senate Bill 159, which increases penalties for smuggling prohibited items, including cell phones, into prisons, and Senate Bill 10, which creates the crime of promoting a drag race and increases penalties for conducting one vehicle during a drag race.

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