New bill targets illegal immigrants, people who pick up day laborers

Illegal immigrants, motorists who stop to pick up day laborers, and government officials who “restrict” the enforcement of federal immigration laws could face punishment under a new bill a Republican state senator introduced this week.

Senate Bill 104 also would allow warrantless arrests of people when police have probable cause to believe they have committed “any public offenses” that make them eligible for deportation.

The language in Sen. Jeff Mullis’ bill mirrors much of what is already in legislation now pending in the Statehouse, including House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40. And it includes provisions similar to those in Arizona’s tough new laws aimed at illegal immigrants.

Like Arizona’s law, for example, Mullis’ bill requires police to determine the immigration status of people they detain or arrest, if they reasonably suspect the person is in the country illegally. A federal judge halted that provision in Arizona’s law last year after the Obama administration argued it and other sections were pre-empted by federal law.

However, unlike the other immigration-related bills now pending in Georgia’s Legislature, Mullis’ bill requires all employers to start using a federal program aimed at verifying newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. The other bills include exemptions for small businesses and those that participate in federal guest worker programs.

This bill is also the first one this session to target day laborers and people who hire them.

Mullis issued a statement by e-mail on Friday in response to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“My bill is designed to make sure all options are on the table as we go forward with working on comprehensive reform legislation,” the Chickamauga Republican wrote.

Among other things, Mullis’ bill bans day laborers who are seeking work from getting into vehicles that are stopped and blocking traffic. It also punishes the motorists in that same scenario and bans illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places. A national organization that represents day laborers called that legislation unconstitutional.

"SB 104 with its anti-day labor section, in particular, is an unwise, unjust and unconstitutional proposal that will be very costly for Georgia taxpayers to defend in court should it be signed into law,” said Chris Newman, legal director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “Federal courts have been very clear in striking down laws on First Amendment grounds that intend to criminalize the act of seeking work in public."

Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, said Friday that Mullis' bill will "take us down a legal slippery slope, and it would assure a tremendous negative impact on Georgia's economy and people."

Mullis’ bill also would allow people to sue a local or state government official who “adopts or implements a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” Successful plaintiffs could recover their court costs and attorney fees, and government agencies could face daily fines of between $1,000 and $5,000.

Officials with the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia said Friday they are concerned about that provision and a similar one in HB 87.