The Georgia General Assembly has sent a bill to Gov. Nathan Deal that requires local governments to certify they’re cooperating with federal immigration officials in order to get state funding.
Georgia already has a law banning local governments from “sanctuary policies” for immigrants living in the country without legal status. State Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, who’s sponsoring the bill, SB 269, said on the Senate floor this new measure would tighten that law by adding a reporting requirement.
“All this does is require a certification annually that there is no sanctuary city policy in effect at the local level,” Stone said.
“Sanctuary cities” sparked debate last year after reports that an immigrant without legal status shot and killed a woman in San Francisco after being released from local law enforcement, despite requests from federal immigration officials to hold him and be notified ahead of time of his release.
Rusi Patel, associate general counsel with the Georgia Municipal Association, said the new law in Georgia would add a requirement to a compliance report local governments already file.
“As far we know, there are no sanctuary cities in the state,” Patel said. “So really the big change here isn’t that big of a change. It just adds another question to that report so the state can actually keep track of whether or not there are sanctuary cities.”
Some Georgia Republican lawmakers have criticized some metro Atlanta counties – Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton -- that don’t hold inmates beyond their release without a warrant, despite requests from federal immigration authorities.
DeKalb County, for instance, stopped honoring hold requests starting in 2014, but does notify of pending releases, according to a spokesperson for the county Sheriff's office. Spokespersons for the DeKalb and Fulton Sheriffs' offices said they don’t consider themselves as “sanctuaries.”
Opponents of the measure say the “sanctuary policy” law on the books is overly broad, and could restrict local law enforcement agencies from enacting policies to address police-immigrant relations.
“There’s a lot of things that local police departments have to do in terms of community outreach to reassure immigrant communities that if they report crimes, that the person reporting the crime is not necessarily going to get in trouble with immigration authorities,” said David Schaefer, director of policy and advocacy at the Latin American Association.
The bill passed the state Senate 49-2 and the state House 118-52.