Lawmaker: New version of Georgia immigration bill could come next year

The sweeping immigration enforcement measure backed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle stalled in Georgia’s House when lawmakers raced to consider other priorities on the final day of the legislative session, House Majority Whip Christian Coomer said Wednesday.

But it’s possible, according to the Cartersville Republican, that a new version of the bill will surface next year.

Senate Bill 452 would have required prosecutors to determine whether people facing sentencing in Georgia’s courts are in the country illegally and to notify federal authorities when they are.

MORE: Georgia bill: Police, courts must help with immigration enforcement

SB 452 also would have required defendants to be brought before a judge, 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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“We ran out of time before we had finished all the bills that were worthwhile,” Coomer said in an email. “Other bills took priority and SB 452 wasn’t called before the clock struck midnight.”

He added the legislature could take up issues covered in SB 452 next year.

“It is not uncommon for significant legislation to take multiple legislative sessions to become law,” he said. “If the state’s interest in reasonable law enforcement approaches to criminal aliens and misdemeanor bail issues remains high, then another version of the bill may see movement next year.”

Cagle, a Republican candidate for governor, released a statement this week saying he was disappointed about the fate of SB 452.

“I will not give up on enforcing the law to keep our citizens safe,” he said. “Law enforcement agencies at every level of government should work together to make sure that criminal illegal aliens who commit serious crimes are arrested, convicted, deported, and never allowed back inside our nation’s borders.”

Immigrant rights groups, meanwhile, are celebrating the bill’s failure to advance. They demonstrated outside the statehouse, delivered letters of opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston and sent an open letter to Facebook and Amazon, detailing their objections to SB 452. Both companies are considering expanding in Georgia.

“We did it! Yesterday was sine die, the last the day of the Georgia legislative session,” Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta said in a statement Friday. “Our team spent hours working to make sure SB 452 did not get called up for a vote before midnight - and we were successful!”