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Georgia lawmakers expand immigration law

The Georgia General Assembly [official website] on Thursday amended Senate Bill 160 [text, PDF], implementing stricter security and immigration compliance than the original 2011 version. The modifications impose tougher penalties and heighten identification requirements. First, the bill requires all public employers, their contractors and subcontractors to verify the work eligibility and "lawful presence" of all new employees though the online federal work authorization program called E-Verify. In addition, under Section 3 public employers must provide an annual report to exhibit compliance with the bill. Local government entities that do not comply with the immigration sanctuary policies "shall be subject to the withholding of state funding or state administered federal funding," with the exception of funds listed under another code. Further, foreign passports alone are not considered a secure and verifiable identification document and cannot be used to obtain public benefits. SB 160 prevents undocumented immigrants from securing an adult education, driver's license, grants, public housing, retirement and other listed federal, state and local benefits. However, the bill does not penalize those who knowingly act in violation of the identification requirement by supplying basic human necessities to undocumented immigrants. The House and Senate approved the bill Thursday by a 113-54 and 43-9 vote, respectively.

Immigration laws [JURIST backgrounder] have become a hot button issue over the past few years when many states, Arizona being the first, passed laws giving their state and local officials more power to crack down on undocumented immigration. Recently Georgia Representative Barry Flemming, R-Harlem, introduced House Bill 667 [text, PDF], which would ban undocumented immigrants from possessing, shipping or transporting firearms. Earlier this month a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia [official website] permanently blocked [JURIST report] a key provision in Georgia's immigration law that criminalized knowingly transporting or harboring an undocumented immigrant during the course of any other crime. In December the same judge lifted a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] blocking part of a Georgia immigration law that allows law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status when questioning suspects in criminal investigations.

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