Georgia’s Republican-controlled state Legislature is once again taking aim at illegal immigration, this time amid a heated race for the GOP presidential nomination with frontrunner Donald Trump refocusing attention on U.S. border security.
In a year in which all 236 state lawmakers are facing re-election, Georgia’s Senate has approved measures to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities” that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities and to place new restrictions on driver’s licenses issued to immigrants without legal status.
On Monday, the Senate passed a proposed state constitutional amendment that would declare English Georgia’s official language. And last week, the House advanced a bill that would bar immigrants without papers from serving on local commissions, councils and boards.
The flurry of activity — a few of the bills were introduced in past years — is drawing new attention because of Trump, who has used the immigration issue to ride to frontrunner status in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. The measures are dividing Georgia Republicans in both chambers — some have spoken out against the bills — and are drawing opposition from outside groups. Among them is the Fulton County Commission, which signaled its disapproval in a unanimous vote Tuesday against House Bill 781, the measure that would restrict who could serve on local boards.
Proponents, meanwhile, say the measures are necessary to drive out immigrants who are here illegally, protect Georgia’s taxpayer-funded resources, bolster public safety and prevent voter fraud.