Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Friday a bill that he said will strengthen the state’s battle against an influx of illegal immigrants.
In a statement, Deal noted that the state has the sixth-highest number of illegal residents, which "comes at enormous expense to Georgia taxpayers.”
“Those who claim that this law will have a negative financial impact on Georgia completely ignore the billions of dollars Georgians have spent on our schools, our hospitals, our courtrooms and our jails because of people who are in our state illegally,” he said.
The bill Deal signed originated in the state House, but includes portions of a Senate bill authored by Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming.
“I’m glad that the governor stuck to his word and went ahead and signed the bill,” Murphy said. “I think it’s something that we need and I think it’s something that the United States needs.
"The federal government is beginning to get the idea ... that we need immigration reform.”
The new state law puts businesses and public agencies on the hook for hiring illegal immigrants, requiring businesses to use the federal E-Verify program to confirm legal status of new hires.
It also allows law enforcement to check immigration status of certain suspects and detain or send them to a state or federal detention facility if they’re not in the country illegally.
Included in the law are harsh penalties for failure to comply with the new guidelines, as well as language penalizing those who harbor or transport illegal immigrants.
People who use fake identification to get a job face up to 15 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Murphy, a Republican who represents District 27, said while the law will be incrementally rolled out over the next 18 months, he’s already seeing the effects.
“Some illegal aliens that are in Georgia are getting out of Georgia and going elsewhere, so I think they see that we’re serious about trying to protect [our citizens],” he said.
As with Arizona’s immigration bill, Murphy said he expects legal challenges, and welcomes them.
"I don’t think they will [hold up] because this bill was drawn up differently than the Arizona bill," he said. “We’ll be ready for any type of challenge that comes forward."