A state legislative panel studying whether Georgia should adopt an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration has received a long list of proposals to consider, including authorizing all local and state law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws.
Also on the list is a proposed requirement for all businesses to use the federal E-Verify database to ensure their employees are in the country legally. Other proposals include creating new criminals offense for people who stop vehicles to hire and pick up day laborers; conceal, harbor, or shield illegal immigrants; or encourage illegal immigrants to move here.
These proposals are outlined in a Nov. 3 memo from deputy legislative counsel Terry Long to the Joint House and Senate Study Committee on Immigration Reform. Long does not identify the sources of the ideas in her memo, but she said they did not come from her office.
But Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, co-chairman of the committee, said the ideas came from legislators and various organizations from around the country, including the National Conference of State Legislatures. Murphy’s panel is seeking to draft a comprehensive immigration bill before the next state legislative session starts in January.
Regarding the proposal to give local police the power to enforce federal immigration laws, Murphy indicated that could present some legal challenges.
“I’m not sure we can do that,” Murphy said after attending his committee meeting at the State Capitol Wednesday. “But we do have the ability when we stop somebody for a violation to ask them — if there is reasonable suspicion — if they are here illegally.”
The Obama administration has held that it is the federal government’s responsibility to enforce immigration laws and it sued to stop Arizona’s law. A federal judge this year blocked the part of Arizona law that requires police to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.
At the same time, the federal government has been empowering local police and sheriff’s deputies in Georgia — and many other states — to enforce immigration laws through so-called 287(g) agreements. Through these agreements, local police are given the power to question people about whether they are in the country legally and issue arrest warrants, prepare charging documents and detain and transport criminals for immigration violations.
Several people spoke at a committee public hearing Wednesday about the possibility of Georgia adopting something similar to Arizona’s law.
“A similar law would have a devastating effect on our economy,” said Helen Kim Ho, executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center of Georgia. “Such a policy would also hamper foreign economic development in our state because of the bad publicity which would result from boycotts and the image of Georgia as an anti-immigrant state.”
Responding to Ho, Sen. John Bulloch, a member of the committee, complained illegal immigrants are “taking advantage of our services, our education system.”
“It all should be done on the federal level,” Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee, said of enforcing immigration laws. “We all agree to that. But at the same time we have the ability to create Georgia laws and that is what we are looking at.”