3/6 – Time Herald – Illegal immigration bill passes House – The Times-Herald

Illegal immigration bill passes House – The Times-Herald.

Published Sunday, March 06, 2011 in Local

By Sarah Fay Campbell

The Times-Herald

Georgia’s much-debated law aiming to crack down on illegal immigrants — and those who hire and harbor them — passed the Georgia House on Thursday.

House Bill 87 passed by a vote of 113-56. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City.

According to the Associated Press, Ramsey feels the most important part of the bill is the requirement that Georgia employers use the federal E-Verify system to make sure that new hires are eligible to work in the United States.

“We know beyond a shadow of a doubt what the root cause of illegal immigration is, and that’s illegal employment,” said Ramsey. “If we do an immigration reform bill and we don’t get at private employment, it’s like trying to cure cancer with an aspirin.

However, the E-Verify requirement won’t go into effect until July 1, 2012, for companies with more than 100 employees, and won’t take effect until Dec. 31, 2012, for smaller companies.

Previous state laws required the use of E-Verify by contractors working for state and local governments, but this is the first time that the majority of employers will be required to use the system.

HB 87 exempts businesses with less than five employees.

The requirement to use E-Verify also comes into play when any company tries to get a business license. The bill states that no license can be issued unless the person either presents a sworn affidavit attesting that the person uses and will continue to use E-Verify, or has less than five employees.

The bill allows Georgians to sue the state or any political subdivision “for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of this code section.” It authorizes Georgia’s attorney general to do the same.

The bill creates the offense of “aggravated identify fraud,” defined as when someone “willfully and fraudulently uses any counterfeit or fictitious identifying information concerning a real, fictitious or deceased person with intent to use such counterfeit or fictitious identifying information for the purpose of obtaining employment.” Such action would be a felony, carrying a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

The two provisions that are similar to a controversial law passed in Arizona are those that penalize people who transport or harbor illegal immigrations, and allow law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of criminal suspects.

The crime of transporting or moving an illegal alien is defined as when a person, “while committing another criminal offense, knowingly and intentionally transports or moves an illegal alien in a motor vehicle for the purpose of furthering the illegal presence of the alien in the United States.”

On first offense, it will be a misdemeanor, as long as no more than seven illegal aliens are transported. A second offense, or moving eight or more illegal aliens, is a felony.

Anyone who transports an illegal alien “with the intent of making a profit or receiving anything of value” would be guilty of a felony.

The crime of “harboring” an illegal alien is similar. The person doing the harboring must also be committing another crime at the time. Harboring includes intentionally harboring, concealing, or shielding an illegal alien from detection.

It does not apply to services provided to children or victims of crimes.

Under the bill, law enforcement officers would only be authorized to verify the immigration status of a suspect if that suspect is unable to provide suitable identification. And that is authorized only if the officer has probable cause to believe said person has committed a crime, including a traffic offense.

The law specifically states that no one who, in good faith, contacts a law enforcement officer or prosecuting attorney “for the purpose of acting as a witness to a crime, to report criminal activity, or to seek assistance as a victim to a crime shall have his or her immigrations status investigated based on such contact or based on information arising from such contact.”

For suspects who are confined in a jail “for any period,” the bill states that “a reasonable effort shall be made to determine the nationality of the person so confined.” If the person is a foreign national, a reasonable effort should be made to determine if the person is in the country illegally. If so, the Department of Homeland Security or other agency shall be notified.

Even if someone is found to be illegal, that person may be granted bond.

The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

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