Georgia Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 or HB 87 has been signed on May 13 by Gov. Nathan Deal and is due to take full effect on July 1, 2011. Ever since the bill has been signed into law, it has created fear and confusion not only among illegal immigrants and their families but also among employers all over the state.
United States Congress decided long ago that immigration law and its enforcement is a matter of national interest and it had created special institutions and a comprehensive legislative scheme in order to implement US immigration regulations in a uniform way all over United States. However, in the absence of a long due federal immigration law reform, states have taken the matter into their own hands and enacted state laws with the purpose to stop illegal immigration. First state to enact such a law was Arizona, followed by Georgia. Other states are considering similar legislation, such as Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. The vast majority of these state laws provisions are likely to be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, until that happens, these laws are enforced and may have deep and unexpected consequences for these states.
Unlike before the enactment of HB 87, a local or state police officer will be allowed to ask for papers or to investigate if a suspect is undocumented and if so, she will be allowed to notify the Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") agents about that person's status.
Under the current federal immigration law, if a person has been unlawfully present in United States for over 180 days but less then 1 (one) year, that person is subject to a 3 (three) years bar on admission; if a person has been unlawfully present in United States for over 1 (one) year, that person is inadmissible for 10 (ten) years. Those that have been deported and try to enter US without authorization, are permanently inadmissible. Usually, when there are discussions about immigration reform, they refer to these admission bans which seem to deter many undocumented immigrants to return to their countries by fear that they will be unable to come back in US legally. Therefore, many of these undocumented immigrants prefer to keep this illegal status rather then risking not to be able to come back legally. This is a problem that has to be fixed by the future legislation.
Undocumented immigrants do fear about the enforcement of the HB 87 bill in Georgia starting July 1, and they should: because this bill was meant to crack down on illegal immigrants. Emotions are running high and many people already left the state.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recommends to any immigrant in Georgia who is detained by police that you should ask to remain silent, to NOT comment about your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer and to NOT answer any question.
More to come about HB 87.