At a time when the Biden administration refuses to enforce federal immigration law and has allowed an estimated 10 million illegal aliens into our country in three short years, it is imperative that states stand strong on this crisis. Last week, I introduced HB 1105, “The Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act.” This bill will add real penalties to our longstanding Georgia laws against “sanctuary” policies. These laws are currently being ignored by certain Georgia sheriffs and other defiant officials sworn to honor and enforce state laws.
OCGA 42-4-14 defines “illegal alien” as “a person who is verified by the federal government to be present in the United States in violation of federal immigration law.” Further, it requires that when foreign nationals are confined in Georgia jails a reasonable effort shall be made to verify that a foreign national “has been lawfully admitted to the United States” or not. If the confined individual is an illegal alien, he must be reported to federal immigration authorities.
The problem is that this law, already in statute, has no penalty for noncompliance.
Unfortunately, several Georgia sheriffs are currently refusing to report to federal immigration authorities. Indeed, in 2021, Gwinnett County Sheriff Kebo Taylor stated at his swearing in ceremony, “…what we will not be doing is notifying ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) of anybody’s immigration status in the jail or any of our facilities.” He also explained that he would not honor ICE detainers for wanted illegals.
OCGA 36-80-23, defines sanctuary policy as “any regulation, rule, policy, or practice adopted by a local governing body which prohibits or restricts local officials or employees from communicating or cooperating with federal officials or law enforcement officers with regard to reporting immigration status information while such local official or employee is acting within the scope of his or her official duties.”
There are currently 1,579 criminal illegals in Georgia state prisons with ICE detainers alone. Many of these are for extremely violent crimes to include murder (182), child molestation (241), rape (179), aggravated child molestation (116), etc. This number does not include local jails.
The goal of HB 1105 is simple. It creates a criminal penalty, a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, for sheriffs who refuse to follow our Georgia laws on sanctuary policies.
It is unconscionable to think that any county sheriff, a constitutional law enforcement officer, would think it appropriate to flagrantly disregard state law while holding others accountable for violation of law. HB 1105 would remedy this by ensuring that all sheriffs are following our current state laws regarding illegal aliens in Georgia jails.
State Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, represents part of Chatham and Bryan counties and is a member of the state House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.