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Georgia, other states pass state-level immigration laws

In response to changes in immigration policy from the Trump Administration, the legislatures of 42 states and the District of Columbia are passing their own immigration measures. A total of 133 new immigration laws and resolutions have been passed at the state level this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Immigrant Policy Project. That’s nearly twice as many as last year.

“You’re seeing legislation that comes up because the feds haven’t fixed the issue, so states are trying to find ways around that,” said a state senator from Nevada.

Georgia passed six new laws related to immigration and 11 resolutions. The resolutions were mostly in recognition or commendation of specific people or immigrant groups. For example, one resolution declared Jan. 30, 2017 as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in honor of a Japanese-American who challenged Japanese internment camps during WW II. Another set March 7, 2017, as New Americans Day in recognition of Georgia's welcoming approach to new Americans.

Somewhat more controversial was GA H 37, which bars colleges and universities in Georgia from adopting immigrant sanctuary policies and sets penalties for violations. Three other states -- Mississippi, Texas and Indiana -- passed anti-sanctuary laws this year.

According to the Hill, more states are likely to pass anti-sanctuary measures in the coming years if the Justice Department withholds federal grant money from pro-sanctuary jurisdictions, as is expected.

However, some states adopted pro-sanctuary policies. These policies typically restrict the extent to which state and local law enforcement are allowed to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The idea is to promote public safety, as even legal immigrants will be less likely to call or cooperate with the police if they believe there could be immigration consequences.

Maryland’s new law, for example, authorizes the state to make up for any federal grants lost due to a jurisdiction’s noncompliance with federal immigration detainer requests.

California may go even further. A bill that would effectively create a statewide immigration enforcement sanctuary is under consideration by the governor.

“States certainly do not have the authority to undermine federal immigration enforcement,” said a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “The law says they may assist in federal immigration enforcement.”

In addition to the measure prohibiting post-secondary institutions from adopting sanctuary policies, Georgia passed another significant law related to immigration. To the extent allowed by federal law, GA H 452 will require the state to publish the information, within 12 hours, when a non-citizen is released from federal custody in Georgia.

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