Immigration bill passes Ga. House

Officer alleges it will endanger police by encouraging 'fight or flight' response

A bill aimed at discouraging illegal immigrants from coming to Georgia passed the Georgia House of Representatives Thursday.

Bill sponsor Matt Ramsey, a Republican from Peachtree City, argued to his colleagues that the legislation “removes every single incentive that we possibly can that lures illegal aliens to come to Georgia ... the incentives that our taxpayers are footing the bill for, we can remove those as state policy makers and that’s exactly what House BIll 87 proposes to do.”

The bill’s crosshairs are aimed in several directions, but perhaps most significantly at the employment sector. It contains language that would require all but the smallest employers in the state to use a federal database to verify if a prospective hire is or is not a legal resident of the United States.

Opponents of the bill accuse it of enabling racial profiling since it would allow law enforcement to conduct an immigration check of any person who is being investigated for any crime, whether a felony, misdemeanor or even a traffic offense.

Currently such checks are only allowed for persons who are booked in jail on any felony charge, Ramsey has said previously.

The bill says police cannot check a person’s immigration status when they call to report a crime, according to bill supporter Rep. B.J. Pak.

Rep. Yasmin Neal, a Jonesboro Democrat and a Clayton County detective and police officer, noted that the bill might have an unintended consequence.

“When a person who is here illegally is approached by an officer now, the officer must fear that the person will be fighting for his freedom,” Neal said in a news release. “That is a dangerous situation for any officer.”

The bill also authorizes citizens to file lawsuits against any local government if a citizen can demonstrate that agency has hired illegal immigrants.

Sen. Robert Brown, a Macon Democrat, suggested that the bill would “destroy Georgia’s agriculture, tourism and hospitality industries.”

The suggestion is that a tourism boycott could be imposed on Georgia similar to the one imposed on Arizona after it enacted sweeping immigration reform.

Although it has now cleared the House, the bill still must get a seal of approval from the Senate, and if so authorized it must avoid a veto from Gov. Nathan Deal.

A significant hurdle in the Senate is the presence of a similar bill which carves out exceptions to the required immigration employment checks for certain businesses such as those involved in agriculture.