One of the measures signed into law at the deadline received little notice but is still worthwhile for the new protections it offers. It makes public information on violent immigrants and gives the state tools for fighting terrorism.
The new law is the result of House Bill 452 and requires the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to maintain an online registry of all undocumented aliens who are released from prison after serving time for a violent crime or from federal immigration detention, a figure supporters of the bill put at more than 10,000 since 2011.
GBI already receives the information from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Now Georgia sheriffs and local law enforcement will have it, too.
Granted, the Trump administration is working to top its predecessor’s record deportation of criminal aliens, but until the job is done, the new registry is an important safeguard.
Georgia has an estimated 375,000 undocumented immigrants. The fact that they broke the law by being undocumented in the first place is reason enough for many Georgians to feel unease, even though illegal immigration is only a misdemeanor.
Since it’s hard to work, have a bank account, drive or participate in other tasks of daily life without documentation, the assumption is they would have to keep breaking laws to function in modern American society. Some people can overlook that, but even the biggest-hearted among us cannot condone violent crime.
The state Senate strengthened the underlying legislation by adding provisions making domestic terrorism a state crime, including chemical or bioterrorism, and authorizing the attorney general to prosecute it. There will be a database for cataloguing tips from concerned citizens that any investigator in the state can access to supplement local intelligence resources. Plus, officers certified by the state will now be trained in techniques for spotting potential terrorists and for combatting them.
These provisions close loopholes in state law while ensuring greater cooperation with federal terrorism efforts.
No one knows why Deal took so long to sign it, but it’s a good thing he finally did.