The Georgia House of Representatives passes the controversial immigration bill

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would require local law enforcement to cooperate more closely with federal immigration authorities and punish those who don't.

On a busy Election Day at the Capitol that takes up over an hour of sometimes heated debate, House Bill 1105 would order local law enforcement to determine the immigration status of people they arrest, report undocumented migrants to the federal government and comply with government requests U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may detain suspected undocumented immigrants for up to 48 hours or longer if ordered by a federal judge.

Rep. Jesse Petrea, a Republican from Savannah, sponsored the bill.

“This bill addresses how law enforcement interacts with individuals who are in the country illegally and subsequently violate our country’s laws,” Petrea told lawmakers. “To be clear: that’s what it’s about and nothing more.”

However, Democrats in the House of Representatives criticized the bill on several points. Stacey Evans, a Democrat from Atlanta, said the bill would prevent local law enforcement from dealing with the myriad problems they face in many communities.

“I trust those who are introducing the bill to say that this is not about spewing hate or being less welcoming to immigrants, but in my opinion it is about stepping on the toes – on the hands – of law enforcement “Trying to deal with high crime,” she said.

Evans also said the bill would effectively “defund the police” in some situations, an accusation that has been leveled against Democratic lawmakers in Georgia and across the county in recent years.

“That’s what this bill does. If we don't like what you do, the sheriff's funds are gone. So I think we can defund it – Republican leadership, House Bill 1105 votes to defund the police. I don't want to be any part of it,” Evans said.

This claim was later challenged in the debate by Petrea, the bill's sponsor, but was not directly refuted. He said: “If you follow the law, no one will be deprived of money.”

Rep. Pedro Marin, a Gwinnett County Democrat, equated the measure with racial profiling and warned House members that it would cause immigrant communities to live in fear.

“We are tired of minorities and immigrants being denied police services because they fear being doubly victimized just because their skin is brown or they have an accent,” Marin said.

He also accused the law of being an overreach and driven by partisan politics, a charge rejected by Republican Rep. Houston Gaines of Athens.

“This is what I know,” Gaines told lawmakers. “Making politics in the face of an unspeakable tragedy is not politics. It’s about doing the right thing to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Gaines also pointed out that parts of the bill are already part of state law, but those requirements are being ignored by some law enforcement agencies.

Rep. J Collins, a Republican from Villa Rica, reiterated that point, noting that HB 1105 imposes criminal penalties for law enforcement officers who refuse to comply.

“This bill will send a clear message that compliance with the law is not optional,” he said. Under the terms of HB 1105, a law enforcement officer who fails to comply with the law if it is passed could face misdemeanor charges.

House Bill 1105 passed by a margin of 97-74. It will be sent to the Georgia Senate for consideration.