State law forces local law to take on INS duty - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State law forces local law to take on INS duty

April 20, 2006

Albany -- A new tough state Immigration Act pushed through by Governor Sonny Perdue mandates Georgia Police Officers enforce laws against people in the United States illegally.

The new act requires local Police check the legal status of everyone charged with a felony or DUI, and if undocumented, be turned over to federal Immigration Authorities.

But could it be another unfunded mandate that local departments will have to bear?

Dougherty County Sheriff Jamil Saba says he worries Governor Perdue's Immigration law will make it tough on law enforcement officers, as they encounter the thousands of people living in South Georgia illegally. "You just going to have to stop them, and check their card. And if they don't have a card they are going to have to go straight to jail," Sheriff Saba said.

Saba knows Dougherty County 's Jail and the others in South Georgia could become crowded as Officers are forced to hold illegals. "If that's the case, I'm sure we are going to get a few in our jail, and I'm sure these surrounding counties are going to get a lot of them."

It has been state law to contact Federal Immigration and Customs officials when undocumented persons are arrested. But Sheriff Saba said the feds never did their job. "They never would really come to check them out and look at them, so we just had to turn them a loose, because we can't keep holding them."

Saba said he got so frustrated with the Feds failure to act in the past, he stopped bothering with them. "I ain't seen nothing yet about what they were supposed to do for us, so we told them we're not going to do it anymore."

Now this new Georgia law requires local authorities enforce federal immigration laws, that the feds are ignoring. And Saba says money promised to train the local officers rarely comes through, making the local departments pay the added cost.

With thousands of illegals in South Georgia, police could face staggering numbers of people they must arrest. "If you see one, you just stop him and check it out. When you get this unfunded mandate stuff, it's hard, because you don't have the money in your budget to do it," Saba said.

Governor Perdue's Immigration Act calls for federal funding for training Police and enforcement, but Sheriff Saba worries that is just another promise of money South Georgia law enforcement will never see.

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