House committee passes immigration bill days after nursing student’s killing on UGA campus

ATLANTA — A state House committee passed a bill that would make it a crime for any Georgia sheriff to refuse to report to federal authorities any suspected undocumented immigrants in their county jails.

This bill was passed in the wake of the arrest of an undocumented immigrant charged with the murder of a nursing student on the University of Georgia campus.

Many of these immigration-related bills were already out there -- some for a couple of years.

But after the death of Laken Riley, those bills have moved up in urgency in this building.

Savannah Republican Jesse Petrea appeared before a House committee Tuesday to explain his bill and how he thinks it will force sheriff’s offices around Georgia to comply with state law.

“So statutory law in Georgia requires that every sheriff when they arrest a foreign national in their jails they must report them to ice,” Petrea said.

Athens-Clarke County police arrested Jose Ibarra and charged him with the murder of nursing student Laken Riley.

Agents say Ibarra is from Venezuela and was detained after he crossed the border illegally in Texas but was later released.


Athens republican Houston Gaines said local police cited him for shoplifting but never arrested him.

While the proposed law wouldn’t have applied in this case, Gaines told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot it would in others.

“To make sure local law enforcement is alerting the federal authorities when they have a defendant in custody in potentially not in the country legally,” Gaines said.

Immigration and border security is now a top issue during this election year.

Georgia’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff told Elliot on Monday that he’s urging his fellow Democrats to take is seriously.

“The crisis at the southern border is real. It’s a threat to national security, and I remain committed to finding a path forward to pass bipartisan border security legislation,” Ossoff said.

Under Petrea’s proposed law, Georgia sheriffs could be charged with a misdemeanor if they don’t comply.

“Puts a criminal penalty on a sheriff who refuses to follow current state law to report ice when a foreign national is in their jail,” Petrea said.

This bill did change a bit from Monday.

If this becomes law, a sheriff could be charged with violation of oath of office for the first offense.

Subsequent offenses could see them charged with a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.

This bill will now go to the full House on Thursday.