Immigrants, Georgia Capital

Georgia Bill Would Punish ‘Sanctuary’ Cities and Counties Harboring Immigrants

Isn't cutting off state aid kind of dangerous?

Georgia senators want to punish “sanctuary” cities and counties harboring immigrants illegally by cutting off state aid or removing officials from office

Honoring a victim killed by a Venezuelan immigrant in February 2024, the Senate Public Safety Committee voted 4-1 on Mar. 6 to rewrite House Bill 301. Supporters feel the bill is crucial, as it will enforce a 2009 state law banning sanctuary cities and counties. 

Jose Ibarra was charged with murder and assault in the death of 22-year-old University of Georgia student Laken Riley. The nursing major was found dead Feb. 22 after a roommate reported she never returned from a morning run in a wooded area. Immigration authorities say Ibarra unlawfully crossed into the U.S. in 2022. It is unclear whether he applied for asylum. 

HB 301 would allow any Georgia resident to sue, asking a judge to declare the accused county or city of violating the law. If a judge agrees, state aid would be cut off, and federal assistance would be under its control, except for a limited number of emergency and health services. However, a judge could restore funding if local government repeals, with ramifications – a permanent order would be placed banning the government from readopting a sanctuary policy, ever. 

The measure also puts elected officials on the chopping block. The bill allows state residents to complain to the Board of Community Affairs, prompting them to conduct a hearing on whether or not the official is breaking the law, according to Fox 5 Atlanta. Following the hearing, recommendations will be sent to the governor for suspension. The governor will then decide to remove the official and appoint a replacement.

In that case, the official can issue a petition to be reinstated, but only if they show their service is “more likely than not to improve the ability” to comply with the anti-sanctuary legislation. 

Bill supporters and Republican Senator Randy Robertson said the new rule would guarantee that sheriff’s offices comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement so they wouldn’t evade the 15-year-old law.

“What we’ve done in this legislation is we’ve added some teeth because there were none in the past,” Robertson said.

However, critics such as Georgia policy director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, Isabel Otero, look at the rule as another attempt by GOP leaders to impose their ideologies on cities and counties. They also feel the measure would give activists a new way to tie up cities and counties with court cases and administrative proceedings. “We have built-in accountability measures for when communities do not like what their local government or local sheriffs are doing, and those are elections. We should not be using the legislature to dictate to local communities,” Otero said. 

This is the second attempt by Georgia legislators to implement stricter immigration laws. In early March 2024, the Georgia House voted 97-74 for House Bill 1104, looking to require local law enforcement to help identify immigrants in the country illegally and detain them for possible deportation.