Georgia House is due to vote Thursday on a bill requiring local police, prosecutors and courts to help enforce federal immigration regulations.
The current version of the bill, amended Tuesday evening, would require local law enforcement, prosecutors and courts to report to federal immigration officials if they discover a suspect is illegally in the country. It also includes bail-out language that proponents say would undermine bail reform efforts in cities like Atlanta.
Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, the House majority whip, introduced the replacement on a house rules committee Tuesday.
“This is a real cleansing of what we have, believe it or not,” said Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, who chairs the House Rules Committee.
Immigration rights activists say the current version of the law goes further than what the Senate passed last month. A House panel approved a watered-down version of the bill last week that removed the requirements for law enforcement officers. However, this version has since been replaced.
“I definitely think this is the worst we’ve come across,” said Maria Palacios, political analyst with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
The bill requires local law enforcement agencies to notify prosecutors if they discover that a suspect is illegally in the country. Also, prosecutors must determine a person’s immigration status prior to conviction and notify federal immigration authorities if they discover someone is illegally in the country. The proposal also requires courts to “inquire” about a person’s legal status during suspended sentence hearings.
Several judges have spoken out against an earlier version of the bill, stating that the requirements of local courts to determine a person’s immigration status would be unconstitutional. Immigration courts, unlike other courts, are under the executive branch of the government, and immigration law is complex and beyond their expertise, they say.
Palacios and other opponents say these requirements undermine trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, and result in people not reporting crimes for fear of deportation.
“It definitely causes a lot of fear and unnecessary anxiety,” said Palacios. “When you go to work, when you go to school, when you do any church activity, it’s not something you forget.”
Proponents of the measure say the bill is necessary to uphold the rule of law in Georgia and protect communities from criminals.
WABE brings you the local stories and national news that you value and trust. Please make a present today.