Georgia Governor Signs Law Mandating Jailers to Verify Prisoners’ Immigration Status

Jailers in Georgia are now required to check the immigration status of inmates and assist in enforcing federal immigration law. This comes after a bill gained momentum following the tragic incident where a Venezuelan man was accused of beating a nursing student to death on the University of Georgia campus.

Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill into law on Wednesday at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth. The majority of the provisions will take effect right away.

The Republican governor has approved a distinct law that mandates the use of cash bail for an additional 30 crimes. Furthermore, this law imposes restrictions on individuals and charitable bail funds, prohibiting them from posting cash bonds for more than three individuals per year, unless they fulfill the necessary criteria to become a bail bond company. This particular legislation will come into effect on July 1.

According to Kemp, House Bill 1105, the immigration bill, has become a major focus for them. This decision was influenced by the tragic death of Laken Riley, who was killed by someone in the country illegally. Surprisingly, the individual had already been arrested after crossing the border.

Jose Ibarra, 26, was taken into custody on charges of murder and assault in relation to the tragic death of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old individual. Immigration officials have revealed that Ibarra entered the United States unlawfully in 2022, although it remains uncertain whether he has sought asylum. The devastating incident surrounding Riley’s demise has sparked a heated political debate, with conservatives pointing fingers at President Joe Biden for what they perceive as shortcomings in immigration policies.

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“If individuals enter our country illegally and then continue to commit crimes within our communities, we will not let their actions go unpunished,” declared Kemp.

Critics argue that the law has the potential to transform local law enforcement agencies into immigration authorities, thereby discouraging immigrants from reporting crimes and cooperating with officers. Moreover, they highlight research studies that indicate immigrants have lower crime rates compared to native-born Americans.

The law sets forth clear guidelines for jail officials to follow when contacting U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to verify the immigration status of prisoners. In the past, Georgia law merely encouraged jailers to do so, but the new legislation goes a step further by making it a misdemeanor to intentionally neglect this responsibility. Furthermore, the bill includes provisions to withhold state funding from local governments that do not cooperate in this regard.

The law requires local jails to seek a 287(g) agreement with ICE, allowing local jailers to assist in enforcing immigration law. However, it is uncertain how many of these applications will be accepted, as the Biden administration has reduced the significance of the program. It’s important to note that this program does not grant local law enforcement the authority to make immigration-related arrests beyond the confines of a jail.

Republicans argue that Senate Bill 63, which mandates cash bail, is necessary for keeping criminals detained, despite the fact that it undermines the reforms implemented by Republican Governor Nathan Deal in 2018. These reforms aimed to enable judges to release individuals accused of misdemeanors without requiring bail.

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Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones expressed concern over the continuous cycle of criminals in some cities and counties. He emphasized the need to address this issue, as it has become a recurring problem.

Supporters argue that judges will still retain the ability to set extremely low bails, even with the proposed changes. It is important to note that the 2018 reform, which mandates judges to take into account an individual’s financial capability, will still be upheld as law.

However, this decision could potentially leave indigent defendants incarcerated, even if they are unlikely to receive a prison sentence. Moreover, it could exacerbate the issue of overcrowding in Georgia’s county detention centers.

Republicans across the country are actively promoting the use of cash bail, despite the efforts of some Democratic-led jurisdictions to completely eliminate or greatly limit its use. This divergence in approach was clearly demonstrated when Illinois successfully upheld its plan to abolish cash bail, while voters in Wisconsin passed a constitutional amendment allowing judges to take into account an individual’s previous convictions for violent crimes when determining bail.

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