updated 4/15/2011 8:29:08 AM ET 2011-04-15T12:29:08

The Georgia Legislature has passed an immigration bill that contains some parts similar to an Arizona law being challenged in court.

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Republican Gov. Nathan Deal must sign it to make it law. His office on Thursday would not say if the Republican governor would sign it.

Deal supported tough immigration measures when he was in Congress.

The bill would authorize law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of certain criminal suspects and allows them to detain those found to be in the country illegally. It would also penalize people who "knowingly and intentionally" transport or harbor illegal immigrants.

Story: Court rules against Arizona immigration law

It also would require employers with 10 or more employees to use a federal database called E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires.

Rep. Matt Ramsey, who crafted the bill, said he has talked with lawyers and believes the law would withstand legal challenges.

Ramsey said E-Verify is the most important part of his bill because jobs drive illegal immigrants to Georgia. Business groups have said the requirement puts an undue burden on employers.

"From the business standpoint, it's an unacceptable mandate on the private sector," Georgia Agribusiness Council president Bryan Tolar said. "As long as E-Verify is in it, (this bill) is bad for Georgia's economy."

'Legislative responsibility'
As of last month, legislators in 30 states had introduced 52 bills that include more than one immigration provision, many with language similar to Arizona's law, according to National Conference of State Legislatures. Of those, 14 have failed and 36 are pending.

Utah is the only state so far to have enacted a law similar to Arizona's, requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone stopped for a felony or serious misdemeanor. Arizona's law allows police to question immigration status if there is a reasonable suspicion they're in the country illegally.

Earlier this week, a federal appeals court upheld a judge's decision that has prevented the most controversial parts of the law from taking effect.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who made immigration a centerpiece of his tenure in Congress, has been largely silent on the wrangling in his state's General Assembly.

"I view this as primarily the legislative responsibility," he said Wednesday.

Civil liberties and immigrant rights groups have opposed the bills — holding a rally at the Capitol last month that drew more than 5,000 people. They've collected thousands of signatures on a petition and spoke out at legislative committee meetings.

They say the bill will be bad for the state's economy and could also lead to civil rights violations and lawsuits. Many Democrats have taken up those arguments.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Georgia considering tough new immigration law

  1. Closed captioning of: Georgia considering tough new immigration law

    >>> are racing to pass a tough new immigration law similar in fact to the one in yz that was approved last year. on this final day of the current legislative session in georgia . like the arizona measure, georgia 's would allow local police to check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. another controversial part of the proposal is private businesses would be required to use everify. that's a verdict database to check the immigration status of new hires. joining us now by phone from the state capitol is atlanta journal constitution reporter jeremy redman. thank you, jeremy for your time.

    >> good afternoon.

    >> unlike what we saw in arizona from what i read, the governor of georgia has not gotten involved very publicly or on the pront lines of what's happening there.

    >> that's true. the republican xacampaigned on bringing an arizona -style law to georgia , but since the session started, he's not taken a position on the bill. yesterday he 15said he was not offering any advice to legislators.

    >> there have been a lot of sticking points, one that's gone back and forth with your state house and state senate is this everify which would require companies to verify the status of the employee. you have members of the restaurant industry, farming industry, and hotels who really tried to fight this.

    >> indeed, that's why the bill is in limbo right now in the senate. there's division in the republican caucus in our state senate over this issue. the concern among rural republicans is this requirement to use this federal work authorization program could hurt georgia 's agriculture industry. it's a $68 billion industry. it's the largest industry here in georgia . that's what's holding up the bill right now. there's some movement to work out a deal but it's still pending. here on the last day of the session, they have until midnight to work it out.

    >> are they at all worried as we saw in arizona of threats of boycott? i think it's an interesting dynamic you have republicans there who are fighting this bill because they don't want employees to be forced to verify which -- i guess if you look at it which would be supporting the hire of illegal immigrants and exploiting that workforce. are they worried about protests?

    >> certainly those threats have been made here in georgia about economic boycotts similar to what arizona has experienced losing dozens of conventions there in phoenix and elsewhere. threats have been made about court challenges. really the main concern among the republican lawmakers i'm hearing is the impact that such laws could have on the agriculture industry. they are worried about the impact it could have on the other industries, but agriculture is our biggest industry here in georgia .

    >> jeremy redmon with the atlanta journal constitution .


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