Local law enforcement agencies are preparing to enforce Georgia’s new immigration law, which will take effect July 1, barring any legal challenges.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 87 — the Illegal Immigration Reform Act — into law last month, making it one of the nation’s strictest immigration laws. Georgia’s new law is similar to legislation passed in Arizona and Utah.
The Illegal Immigration Reform Act permits state and local law enforcement to ask criminal suspects for immigration documentation. If a suspect cannot produce proof of legal alien status, police officers or sheriff’s deputies can detain these suspects until federal officials begin the deportation process.
Here in Liberty County, Hinesville police and the sheriff’s department are taking their cue from their respective professional associations as far as training personnel on enforcement guidelines. However, HPD and LCSO leaders don’t expect the new immigration law to greatly impact the county.
“At this point we’ll conduct business as usual,” HPD Chief Georgia Stagmeier said.
Stagmeier said his officers have not yet been trained in the new law but will once guidelines are set by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council. The council is the state’s police certification entity, he said.
Liberty County sheriff’s deputies are also waiting for their certification organization to establish training in how to properly enforce the new legislation.
“We’re waiting for some guidelines from the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association,” LCSO Chief Deputy Keith Moran said. “We don’t see a great deal of illegal arrests in Liberty County. It may be more prevalent in surrounding counties that are more agricultural.”
Stagmeier said his officers currently comply with the spirit of the immigration law. If HPD comes across an illegal alien who has committed a crime, they arrest them and notify federal authorities, he said. The police chief emphasized local law enforcement does not have the authority to deport anyone.
Moran said the LSCO deals with illegal aliens in a similar fashion. He said the sheriff’s office has always notified federal agencies if they arrest illegal immigrants.
“We probably only have a handful of illegal alien arrests each year,” Moran said. He added if a foreign national is arrested, the LCSO notifies their particular embassy.
“I don’t anticipate any form of major changes,” Moran said. He said once the new immigration law goes into effect deputies will be trained accordingly.
Stagmeier said the new law also impacts employers, and believes illegal immigration may show up more readily through the E-VERIFY system. Under the new legislation, all businesses in Georgia with more than 10 employees must use E-VERIFY, which is an Internet-accessible database. This database verifies a worker’s immigration status.
Stagmeier said when HPD does background checks on individuals applying for various licenses, such as business licenses, their immigration status also is verified.