A coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups on Tuesday announced their opposition to an immigration enforcement bill backed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a Republican candidate for governor.
Senate Bill 452 would require Georgia courts to determine whether the defendants they are sentencing are legally in the country. If they are here without legal permission, the courts would then be required to order prosecutors to notify federal immigration authorities about them.
SB 452 also says all defendants, including those accused of violating local ordinances, must be brought before a judge. That would hold true even if the court has a “bond schedule” allowing them to be released on their own recognizance as soon as they are brought to a local jail.
Atlanta is the only Georgia city following such a system. It was adopted after reports by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other news outlets of poor people sitting in jail for weeks or months because they could not afford to post bonds for crimes like begging for money or urinating in public.
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At a news conference across from the state Capitol, a large group of opponents criticized SB 452, including the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Council on American-Islamic Relations Georgia and the Georgia and Alabama chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. They also announced they were delivering more than 1,000 letters of opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal’s office.
“In its current form, SB 452 contains a host of constitutional and administrative issues that will only make things harder for our people, our government offices and law enforcement,” said Aisha Yaqoob, policy director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta and a Democratic candidate for the Georgia House of Representatives District 97 in Gwinnett County.
Proponents say SB 452 would help ensure the deportation of unauthorized immigrants with violent criminal records and deter illegal immigration. Cagle issued a statement Tuesday, saying the Senate “crafted a commonsense bill preventing criminal illegal aliens from slipping through the cracks and committing further crimes in our society. I’m hopeful members of the House will stand up for their constituents and allow our law enforcement officers to fulfill their oath of office by upholding the law.”
The measure has passed the Senate and is pending in the House.