Of all the new laws that went into effect last year, none have received more attention and scrutiny than House Bill (HB) 87, the new “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act.” This new piece of legislation was patterned after the highly challenged Arizona immigration law. Georgia seems to have taken the parts of the Arizona law that were upheld by the courts and fleshed them out to meet Georgia’s needs.
Many of my constituents have already addressed concerns to me. Some feel that states have no business dealing with immigration enforcement; that it is strictly a federal issue. Others think that states can bring much greater enforcement assets to bear within their jurisdiction than the Federal government could, which will result in much improved enforcement overall. Regardless, the law has been passed and I think that it is important for all citizens to have a good understanding of what it entails.
Some of the highlights of the new law are:
State and local governments and their subordinate agencies must verify that employees, contractors, and others they deal with comply with Federal immigration laws. Although there are no criminal penalties, reports are required to verify compliance and falsified reports could warrant criminal charges.
Private employers with more than ten employees must use the Federal e-verify program to determine employment eligibility. An individual may be required to demonstrate his/her legal immigration status via a “secure and verifiable document.” A list of acceptable documents has been promulgated by the Attorney General and is posted on his website. This list basically includes any government issued identification, to include passport, military I.D., or driver’s license.
A new statute was added creating the crime of “aggravated identity fraud,” which occurs when a person willfully and fraudulently uses identifying information of another person for the purpose of seeking employment. The penalty for this crime is imprisonment for 1 – 15 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000. Such sentencing must run consecutive to any other sentence.
Many are concerned about the very idea of states creating and enforcing their own immigration laws. Georgia was the fourth state to enact its own immigration law and more have followed. As of last December, 42 states have enacted a new law or resolution related to immigration. Many state leaders feel such laws are necessary because the Federal government (admittedly) does not have the resources to adequately enforce immigration law.
As Sheriff of Dougherty County, my duty is to enforce the law and to protect all citizens. Dougherty County has a growing and vibrant Latino community. This community brings a richness of culture and diversity which adds value and ultimately improves the quality of life here. I plan to enforce this new law as I do all other laws, with temperance, balance, and in a way that demonstrates the value that I place on our Latino citizens.
If you have any questions or concerns about this new law, or any other Georgia law, please feel free to contact my office at 229-431-3259.