Monday, September 5, 2011

Georgia's New Immigration Law


On May 13, 2011, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.  This new law, which is somewhat similar to the much publicized law in Arizona, is the most sweeping change in immigration policy in the history of this state.

While legal challenges are expected and might delay implementation, it is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2011.

The law imposes new criminal penalties on anyone employing illegal immigrants. It also imposes new criminal penalties on anyone who uses fraudulent identification in order to get a job and on those who transport or “harbor” illegal immigrants. The law also gives law enforcement officers in the state the power to enforce federal immigration laws in certain circumstances and requires most private employers to use a federal verification system known as E-Verify to screen those who have been hired for jobs.

The new immigration law:

    1.    Creates a new criminal offense of aggravated identity fraud for anyone willfully using fraudulent documents to get a job. A person under 21 would be punished by 1-3 years in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000. Those 21 and up would face minimally 1-10 years in jail and/or a fine up to $100,000.
  2.    Empowers any peace officer with probable cause to believe a person has committed a criminal offense, including a traffic offense, to investigate their immigration status if they cannot produce valid identification and detain them if they are found to be in the country illegally.
3.    States that a person’s race, color or country of origin is not to be a determinant in investigating their immigration status.

 4.    States that a person who contacts the police to report a crime, as a witness to a crime or victim of a crime will not have their status investigated.
  5.    Requires that when anyone is held in county or municipal jail for any reason, an effort is made to verify that they are in the country legally and if they are not in the country legally, immigration authorities will be notified and they will be subject to detention.
  6.    Creates a new criminal offense: transporting or moving an illegal alien. Creates a new criminal offense: knowingly and intentionally inducing an illegal alien to enter Georgia. Penalties range from less than 1 year in jail and/or a fine to 1-5 years in jail and/or a fine.
        Creates a new criminal offense: concealing or harboring an illegal alien. Harboring is defined to mean anything that substantially helps an illegal alien to remain in the United States. Exceptions are: a person helping infants or children, a crime victim, in a medical emergency, a person offering privately funded social services, or attorney-client representation. Penalties mirror those for transporting an illegal alien.

    6.    Requires any private employer with more than 10 employees to use the federal E-Verify program to determine that any newly hired employee is in the country legally. This will be effective on Jan. 1, 2012 for employers with 500 or more employees, July 2012 for employers of 100 up to 499 employees and July 1, 2013 for employers of more than 10 but fewer than 100 employees. In order to receive a business license or renew a license, businesses will have to show they are registered with E-Verify. Violation of this will be a criminal offense.

Although this law will be tested by legal challenges, there is a substantial likelihood that it will pass constitutional muster.  Many of the problems with the Arizona law were preemptively addressed with this legislation.  Like it or not, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 will become part of the legal reality in Georgia.

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