The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
House Republicans gutted a Senate enforcement bill Monday and filled it with language from their own more comprehensive legislation for cracking down on illegal immigrants.
By a vote of 6-3, the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee essentially turned Senate Bill 40 into House Bill 87, but with a few technical changes. The House passed a nearly identical version of HB 87 this month.
Partly patterned after Arizona’s tough new law targeting illegal immigrants, Georgia’s House and Senate bills were similar. But HB 87 is twice as long as SB 40. And unlike the Senate bill, the House legislation would punish people who, while committing another crime, “knowingly” harbor or transport illegal immigrants or encourage them to come to the state.
HB 87 would allow state residents to sue state or local government officials who fail to enforce state laws targeting illegal immigration. The House bill also would punish people who “willfully and fraudulently” use fake identification to get a job in Georgia.
The author of SB 40 — Republican Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming — could not be immediately reached for comment Monday. No Senate committee hearing has been set yet for HB 87, sponsored by Republican Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City. Ramsey said he warned Murphy on Friday about the committee’s plans for SB 40.
“The House committee feels pretty strongly about the product we pushed out before,” Ramsey said after the panel’s vote Monday. “Senator Murphy and I have the same goal here. We are working to address — in a comprehensive manner — the issues posed by illegal immigration.”
Seven other immigration-related bills have stalled during this legislative session and failed to pass either chamber. Among other things, those bills would ban illegal immigrants from attending state colleges and collecting worker’s compensation and jobless benefits. The chief sponsors of all of these bills are Republicans.
Illegal immigrants convicted of drunken driving in Georgia would face a felony for a first-time offense under another Senate bill that is pending in a House subcommittee. Ramsey, the chairman of that subcommittee, said his panel has asked for more information from the bill’s author, Republican Sen. William Ligon Jr., R-Waverly.