State Rep. Houston Gaines

ATLANTA – Legislation requiring local law enforcement agencies to comply with a 2006 state law aimed at illegal immigration cleared the Republican-controlled Georgia House Thursday.

House Bill 1105, which passed 97-74 primarily along party lines, comes on the heels of last week’s murder of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student, on the University of Georgia campus in Athens. A 26-year-old Venezuelan man allegedly in the country illegally has been charged with the crime.

The bill requires local sheriffs and jailers to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Those that fail to determine the nationality of suspects being held in local jails and notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when they have a suspected illegal immigrant in custody would be subject to the withholding of state funds and state-authorized federal funds.

“Georgia law already prohibits sanctuary cities,” state Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, told his House colleagues before Thursday’s vote. “House Bill 1105 will make sure sanctuary policies don’t get rooted in our local governments.”

“We have the greatest border crisis in our nation’s history,” added Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, the bill’s chief sponsor. “Millions are entering our country illegally. We don’t know who they are.”

But Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Atlanta, said the legislation would force local law enforcement agencies to focus their efforts on ferreting out illegal immigrants instead of allowing them to concentrate on those committing violent crimes regardless of their nationality.

“It’s stepping on the hands of law enforcement (agencies) who are trying to deal with high crime,” she said.

Other opponents argued the legislation would lead to racial profiling of the sort that would discourage law-abiding citizens with brown skin or foreign accents from coming forward to report criminal activity,

“Fewer people scared of being suspected of anything are going to ‘see something, say something,’ ” said Rep. Marvin Lim, D-Norcross.

The bill now moves to the Georgia Senate.