April 18, 2009

AJC: If Perdue signs bill, immigration laws will tighten

Posted by D.A. King at 11:46 am - Email the author   Print This Post Print This Post  

If Perdue signs bill, immigration laws will tighten

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Georgia’s crackdown on illegal immigration will continue if Gov. Sonny Perdue signs into law a measure approved by the General Assembly requiring more jail checks that could lead to deportation.

• Summary of immigration-related legislation

“That is a deterrent, in and of itself, to people coming into Georgia or remaining here illegally,” said D.A. King, president of the Dustin Inman Society, a Marietta-based anti-illegal immigration group, and a supporter of the legislation.

The measure, House Bill 2, updates sections of the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act of 2006, a comprehensive crackdown on illegal immigration in Georgia. It is awaiting Perdue’s signature.

Georgia law already requires jailers to check legal status and report any illegal immigrants charged with a felony, DUI or driving without a license. Under House Bill 2, jailers also would be required to alert federal agents when they encounter an illegal immigrant charged with misdemeanors of a “high and aggravated nature.”

In addition, the bill requires that public employers and contractors use a federal database to verify that new hires are not illegal immigrants, and that those who receive public benefits — from welfare to a business license — are in the U.S. legally. Local governments that don’t comply could lose state road-building money, the measure says. ( note from D.A. – not exactly)

Jerry Gonzalez, head of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, called the bill a waste of time. Gonzalez said immigration is a federal issue that should be resolved by Congress, not at the state level. President Barack Obama is expected to address immigration reform this year.

“The bottom line is that immigration reform is coming,” Gonzalez said.

Terry Norris, executive vice president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, called it another unfunded mandate.

“Most sheriffs do not have the resources to enforce immigration law,” Norris said. He added, however, that sheriffs will comply with the law.

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway says the new requirements will add to booking times.

“Anything that adds to the process slows us down,” Conway said.

Gwinnett booked about 13,000 foreign-born inmates last year. Between 30 percent and 45 percent could be illegal immigrants, Conway said.

During a monthlong intensive “blitz” in February, federal agents scoured the Gwinnett jail and flagged 915 inmates for deportation.

Conway has applied for a federal program — known as 287(g) — that would train his deputies to cooperate with federal immigration agents and start deportation paperwork on any illegal immigrant booked into the jail, no matter what the charge. It would mean more work for the Sheriff’s Office, but Conway has said he would devote 18 deputies to the program if the federal government approves it.

Cobb, Hall and Whitfield counties now run such programs at their jails.

Conway said he expects that when a new immigration jail opens in Gainesville this summer, federal officials will approve Gwinnett for the 287(g) program. The new jail would create enough bed space to house the expected increase in deportees from Gwinnett and other areas, Conway said.


Outcome of immigration-related bills in this year’s Legislature


H.B. 2: Broadens conditions for jailers to check the legal status of inmates, could lead to more deportations. Also, requires all government employers to use the federal E-Verify database to check the legal status of new hires. Requires governments to use the federal SAVE database to check legal status of those seeking public benefits. Governments could lose state road-building dollars if they don’t. ( Note from D.A. – not exactly)
S.B. 86: Requires proof of citizenship to register to vote.

S.B. 20: Prohibits local governments from establishing “sanctuary policies.” Requires local officials to cooperate with federal agents to report immigration status. Threatens withholding of state dollars for non-compliance.

Failed: ( Note from D.A.- these bills are still alive for next year)

S.B. 67: English-only driver’s license tests.

S.B. 136: Rapid deportation from state prisons.