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LEITF Explainer: The Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act of 2024

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On May 1, 2024, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law House Bill 1105, the Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act of 2024. In part, this sweeping state legislation requires Georgia’s local agencies to aggressively pursue agreements with the federal government to help enforce immigration laws, clarifies and expands the state’s ban on local sanctuary policies, and criminalizes officials — including law enforcement officers — who fail to impose some of the harshest protocols in the country.  

Propelled by the tragic killing of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley, whose suspected murderer is a migrant, H.B. 1105 moved quickly through the state legislature to arrive on Gov. Kemp’s desk. Most of the new law’s provisions took effect immediately, giving stakeholders little time to prepare. 

Yet, the legislation has raised serious concerns around law enforcement liability, the potential for racial profiling, an erosion of community trust, and possible consequences for noncitizen victims of crimes. This explainer provides an overview of the Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act of 2024, focused on its ramifications for law enforcement, immigrant communities, minority communities in the state, and the potential for the law to serve as a legislative blueprint.  

Key Provisions of H.B. 1105 

At its core, H.B. 1105 represents an attempt to force greater cooperation between local governments and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), ultimately to detain and deport more noncitizens who come into contact with Georgia’s police forces.  

For one, the new law requires local agencies to seek memoranda of understanding so that local law enforcement can help the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) impose federal immigration laws through collaborations such as the 287(g) program. These agreements — named after the Immigration and Nationality Act’s Section 287(g) — let certain deputized officers perform functions usually carried out by federal immigration personnel, such as interviewing people about their immigration status, issuing immigration detainers, giving immigrants Notices to Appear that begin removal proceedings, and transferring people to ICE. Entry into a 287(g) agreement with the federal government is voluntary, and only a small fraction of jurisdictions participate.  

Under the new Georgia law, any Georgia locality that fails to pursue a 287(g) agreement, may lose access to state or state-administered federal funding.  

The legislation also requires officers to try to verify someone’s immigration status if they are accused of a motor vehicle violation, a requirement that is likely to have significant impacts on community trust. In particular, driving without a license — in Georgia, a state that does not have driving privileges for undocumented people — creates even more risks for people who face deportation if they are stopped while driving to work or to a doctor’s appointment.  

H.B. 1105 also expands the definition of a “sanctuary” policy to include any restrictions on compliance with an immigration detainer notice, even though under federal law, detainers are voluntary and can expose states and localities to civil liability if improperly applied. 

Moreover, the bill creates criminal liability for state and local officials. It establishes a misdemeanor offense for jailers who do not follow the law’s requirements to screen for a person’s nationality and immigration status or who are unable to abide by DHS’s request to further detain an unauthorized immigrant for at least 48 hours. The bill also creates criminal liability for other local officials or employees who are found to violate the sanctuary/detainer provisions. These mandates are reinforced by regular reporting requirements, with the potential for fines or imprisonment if officials make false statements.  

Finally, H.B. 1105 generally requires detention facilities to collect DNA samples for people convicted of a felony who are subject to an immigration detainer notice.  

H.B. 1105’s Effect on Law Enforcement  

From threatening criminal penalties against law enforcement officials to potentially defunding local police, the Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act of 2024 will likely have significant ramifications for first responders on the ground.  

The new law’s policies — especially its requirements to comply with unreliable ICE detainers — expose Georgia’s agencies to serious liabilities. Between 2007 and 2015, nearly 700 U.S. citizens were wrongly held in local jails because of ICE detainers. These erroneous incarcerations have created millions of dollars in potential civil liability, leaving localities to foot the bill for improperly honoring these voluntary federal requests.  

Even beyond the issue of civil liability, carrying out immigration enforcement at the local level consumes significant manpower and resources. In Georgia, Gwinnett County, a county of fewer than a million people, spent an estimated $3.7 million a year to honor ICE detainers and run a 287(g) program, until 2021, when the local sheriff ended participation in the program. Sheriffs have already highlighted potential capacity issues if people languish in jail longer because of the new law’s changes. Additionally, in a statement on H.B. 1105, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute warned that the legislation “is expensive and strips scarce resources from local governments, replacing local discretion with state-level decision making to the detriment of local communities.” 

The new law could also erode community trust across Georgia. As of now, the state has relatively few 287(g) agreements in place. But as local police are forced to continually apply for such agreements while screening people they encounter for immigration status, noncitizen victims and witnesses are likely to fear interactions with law enforcement. This is anticipated to have a detrimental impact on victims and witnesses coming forward to work with law enforcement, which threatens to make entire communities less safe while making local police’s jobs even harder.

H.B. 1105’s Effect on Immigrant Communities and Other Minority Communities 

Advocates fear that H.B. 1105 is likely to deter immigrant domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking survivors from coming forward and reporting crimes to law enforcement. “The data and stories that we have heard from survivors clearly show that when laws like H.B. 1105 are passed, immigrant survivors become even more scared to leave their homes to seek safety due to fear of being profiled by law enforcement,” said Vanessa Wilkins, the executive director of Tahirih Atlanta.  

At the same time, research suggests that the existence of 287(g) programs can cause mental and physical harm to immigrant communities — particularly children and young people. In one Georgia county, researchers found that “youth linked immigration enforcement policies like 287(g) to exclusionary systems that contributed to fear, marginalization, and loss in their communities, bringing experiences of sadness, grief, isolation, hopelessness, and low self-worth.”  

Elsewhere in the country, the introduction of 287(g) programs “led to worse health outcomes at birth” for the U.S. citizen children of foreign-born mothers. “Our study documents that an immigration policy where enforcement discretion is enacted at a local level has adverse effects on infant health,” the authors wrote.  

Notably, in many of the Georgia counties that have 287(g) programs in place or have had such agreements in the past, expert reports and government disclosures indicate that often a strong majority of ICE detainers and arrests have involved people with traffic violations, low-level crimes, or no violations whatsoever. In these contexts, Georgia families are being separated not because of a family member’s violent crime, but because of their minor error in judgment or mere happenstance.  

H.B. 1105’s consequences also reach beyond the immigrant community in Georgia to affect communities of color who are often misidentified or stereotyped as “foreign.” Roughly one in ten Georgia residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, stoking concerns of widespread profiling based on race or ethnicity. Such anxieties are based on experience, given perennial reports of racial profiling as part of the implementation of 287(g) programs 

H.B. 1105 as a Model?  

On May 28, 2024, Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry (R) signed into law Act No. 314. The Louisiana bill is meaningfully distinct from Georgia’s H.B. 1105, but the former does incorporate some of the latter’s key provisions, including a prohibition on sanctuary policies and general requirements to comply with immigration detainers.  

Another similar bill, Alabama H.B. 376, started advancing this year in the state’s legislature but is now indefinitely postponed.  

Even so, these two pieces of legislation from Louisiana and Alabama indicate that states are taking notice of Georgia’s H.B. 1105 as a blueprint for their own communities. Such an outcome would be detrimental, threatening to overburden local law enforcement, create legal liability for jailers and other officials, harm immigrant victims and survivors of crimes, make communities less safe, and undermine community trust particularly within immigrant communities.  

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