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Georgia bill: Police, courts must help with immigration enforcement

Local police and court officials would be required to help with immigration enforcement in Georgia under legislation the state Senate passed Monday on a 36-17 vote.

Senate Bill 452 now moves to the House for consideration.

Sponsored by a group of Republican state senators and backed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, SB 452 would require local police to notify prosecutors when they learn suspects are in the country illegally. The legislation — titled the END Act, or Ensuring Necessary Deportations — would also require courts sentencing these suspects to determine whether they are here without permission and to report that information to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Further, local jails would be required to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement before unauthorized immigrants are released from custody.

Supporters said the measure would help uphold the rule of law and protect public safety.

“This bill can save lives,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Republican from Columbus. “It is a very modest requirement that information be shared so that the law can be enforced.”

Senate Democrats questioned whether the bill would burden local governments with unfunded mandates, scare away migrant Hispanic workers and damage the state’s huge agricultural industry.

“A lot of counties and towns are pretty hard-pressed for keeping body and soul together,” said state Sen. Nan Orrock, an Atlanta Democrat. She wondered aloud whether her fellow senators had “considered the fiscal impact of putting this mandate on local government.”

Since May, three Georgia cities — Atlanta, Clarkston and Decatur — have adopted measures in favor of restricting their interactions with ICE. They join scores of other municipalities and states nationwide that have enacted similar policies. Some jails in these communities won’t honor ICE detainers, or requests to detain people for up to 48 hours beyond when they would normally be released so the agency can pick them up and seek to deport them. Courts have found complying with such detainers can violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

In September, Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss adopted a policy prohibiting city police from arresting, detaining or transporting anyone based solely on an ICE detainer. Her move drew the ire of Cagle, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, who accused Decatur of violating a state law prohibiting “sanctuary policies.” The city has vigorously defended its policy.

In-depth: Georgia cities limiting cooperation with ICE amid Trump’s crackdown

“No illegal aliens convicted of a crime against our society should ever skirt deportation because of the ineffectiveness of government bureaucracy,” Cagle said in a prepared statement about SB 452.

Terry Norris, the executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, said his group is tracking the legislation “and will continue to seek language which ensures that sheriffs’ offices can comply with legislative intent and yet not be overly burdened with the resulting protocol.”

Local immigrant rights groups oppose the measure, saying it could violate Fourth Amendment rights and create distrust between local police and immigrant communities. They plan to hold a press conference about SB 452 Tuesday morning.

“This bill is unconstitutional, harmful to our communities, and economically wasteful,” the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and Project South said in a joint news release.

The Coalition for Refugee Service Agencies also opposes the measure, saying immigrants “may no longer feel comfortable reporting crimes — even if they are victims themselves. Immigrants may also be discouraged from going to court for minor offences like traffic violations if they fear deportation.”

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