State Rep. Jesse Petrea

ATLANTA – Georgia lawmakers are expected to pass legislation this week targeting illegal immigration following the arrest of a Venezuelan man in the U.S. illegally for the murder of an Augusta University nursing student in Athens.

A law aimed at “sanctuary cities” – where law enforcement authorities do not seek to arrest and prosecute illegal immigrants – has been on the books in Georgia since 2006.

House Bill 1105, which cleared the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee late Tuesday, seeks to ensure local law enforcement agencies enforce the 18-year-old law, said state Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, the bill’s chief sponsor.

“Unfortunately, some municipalities and counties have been able to circumvent the funding restrictions we have in place today,” he said.

Committee Chairman J Collins, R-Villa Rica, said many of House 1105’s provisions have been before the General Assembly since last year.

“We’re always very careful not to just tee up reactionary legislation,” he said. “This committee has been working on this issue for quite some time.”

But cracking down on illegal immigration took on a sense of urgency after Jose Ibarra, 26, was arrested and charged in last Friday’s murder of Laken Riley, whose body was found by a lake near the intramural fields on the University of Georgia campus.

House Bill 1105 contains new language added since last week’s killing strengthening the existing law, including a provision to “require” rather than simply “encourage” local law enforcement officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Those agencies 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 an illegal immigrant in custody would be subject to the withholding of state funds and state-authorized federal funds.

“That is the job of every sheriff in this state today,” Petrea said. “Maybe half of our sheriffs are following that law.”

The committee approved the bill on Tuesday. It’s expected to reach the House floor on Thursday, Crossover Day in the General Assembly, the deadline for legislation to clear either the House or Senate to remain alive for the 2024 session.