(ESPAÑOL) Georgia lawmakers are considering a deportation bill for illegal immigrants who commit crimes.
The bill is known as the END Act, which stands for Ensuring Necessary Deportations. Supporters of the measure say it would increase accountability and make the state safer.
“I think someone who’s already in the country without lawful status who then commits a crime, we ought to be doing everything we can to have that person deported,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Republican supporter of the bill.
But critics say the measure is unconstitutional, harmful to immigrant communities and could result in people being held unlawfully. A person’s immigration status isn’t always easy to determine, and it’s not clear how police and state court judges would accurately make that determination, they say.
“With automatic extensions and pending applications, many of our clients cannot point to one document to demonstrate status, even if they are in country lawfully,” Tracie Klinke, chairman of the Georgia-Alabama chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said in an emailed statement.
Under the measure, police would be required to detain any criminal suspect who appears to be in the country illegally and to notify prosecutors and federal immigration authorities. Judges would be required to “inquire and determine” the immigration status of people who appear before them for sentencing and to “immediately notify” federal immigration authorities if a person is in the country illegally. Finally, jail authorities would have to notify federal authorities before releasing someone who is in the country illegally.
Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, said he is watching the bill and plans to make sure any final version is something his members can legally comply with.
The legislation could also lead to lawsuits, critics say.
“Make no mistake, if this law passes, we are going to monitor its implementation closely and we are going to challenge it in court,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director for Project South, which focuses on immigrants’ rights.