Category Archives: Georgia Legislation

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 125

Georgia Proposed Legislation. After a relatively quiet legislative session related to adverse immigration bills, there were several recent developments.

On Monday, February 29, the State Senate will debate and probably adopt a proposed amendment to the Georgia constitution to make English the official language of State government. SR 675, if adopted by the General Assembly and favorably voted upon by the electorate would declare English as the official language of the State of Georgia; provide that official state actions be in English; prohibit any requirement that any language other than English be used in any documents, regulations, orders, transactions, proceedings, meetings, programs, or publications; and prohibit discrimination, penalties, or other limits on participation against persons who speak only English.

On Monday, the Senate is also likely to pass SB 6 which would provide that those with DACA status could only obtain restricted driving privilege licenses and separate identification cards indicating their immigration status.

The House of Representatives passed HB 781 which would allow State and local governments to appoint as members of policy making bodies only persons who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and legal residents of the State of Georgia.

It should be noted that each of these measures faces additional debate before they become law.

Bishops Continue to Speak on Immigration. Catholic bishops continue to speak and relate immigration policy to the dignity of the human person as emphasized by Pope Francis and Catholic social teaching. Cardinal Sean O’Malley: http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/02/18/cardinal-us-immigration-policy-must-combine-compassion-and-safety/. Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange and Chairman of the board of CLINIC: https://cliniclegal.org/news/clinics-board-chairman-reflects-its-work-light-pope-franciss-border-visit-and-season-lent

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 124

Pope Francis In Mexico. It is very difficult to summarize the Holy Father’s apostolic visit to Mexico. Pope Francis addressed many issues pertinent to Catholic life in Mexico and met with political and Church leaders. Among the issues getting media attention in the United States was the migration issue in general and the issue of immigration into the United States. The most significant event related to immigration was Mass and surrounding event occurred at Ciudad Juarez and was supported by others across the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas. See the Catholic News Service Report at https://cnstopstories.com/2016/02/18/pope-francis-vips-gather-in-el-paso-to-welcome-pope-to-u-s-mexico-border/ There are also multiple additional reports of the Pope’s visit from Catholic News Service, America Magazine, CLINIC and others. http://americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/pope-border-juarez-prayer-migrants

Georgia Proposed Legislation. The Rules Committee of the Georgia State Senate has recommended a constitutional amendment to make English the official language of State government. SR 675, if adopted by the General Assembly and favorably voted upon by the electorate would declare English as the official language of the State of Georgia; provide that official state actions be in English; prohibit any requirement that any language other than English be used in any documents, regulations, orders, transactions, proceedings, meetings, programs, or publications; and prohibit discrimination, penalties, or other limits on participation against persons who speak only English.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 123

Pope Francis In Mexico. Pope Francis has begun his apostolic trip to Mexico. While he may touch on many issues during the trip, migration from Central America through Mexico and immigration into the United States are prime topics. In an interview, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, made the point: “It’s not wrong to think the pope is coming to the border to make a statement about the human dignity of immigrants,” acknowledging that such a statement has clear political consequences http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/02/08/el-paso-bishop-says-popes-border-stop-is-pastoral-but-with-a-political-edge/?s_campaign=crux:rss?s_campaign=crux:email:ja.

Georgia Proposed Legislation. The Georgia General Assembly has been in session for sixteen of its forty legislative days and there has been little discussion of issues directly related to immigrants. Nonetheless, we are keeping watch over several bills that could impact immigrant peoples. For example, Senator Josh McKoon has proposed legislation to create a new driver’s license for DACA recipients to brand them as “illegal aliens.” http://news.wabe.org/post/ga-senator-wants-separate-driver-cards-illegal-aliens. We are also watching a constitutional amendment to make English the official language of Georgia.

ICYMI -Citizenship.  For those who are eligible, advocates encourage immigrants to seek U.S. citizenship. Among the benefits of citizenship is the right to vote and, thus, impact public policy. http://ht.ly/XTpW4; http://ht.ly/XNRqt

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 122

Georgia Supreme Court Rules Against Dreamers. The Georgia Supreme Court rejected a claim by 39 undocumented immigrant students seeking the right to attend state colleges in Georgia at in-state rates. The Court noted, however, that there were other means of seeking judicial relief and attorneys pledged to use those means http://ht.ly/XXgFS.

Citizenship.  For those who are eligible, advocates encourage immigrants to seek U.S. citizenship. Among the benefits of citizenship is the right to vote and, thus, impact public policy http://ht.ly/XTpW4; http://ht.ly/XNRqt.

IVYMI — Pope Francis Is Coming to America Again. This time he is coming to Mexico in less than two weeks. The Holy Father is expected to continue his advocacy on behalf of migrants, particularly when he visits Ciudad de Juarez on February 17 http://ht.ly/XDQMb.

Georgia Proposed Legislation. The Georgia General Assembly has been in session for sixteen of its forty legislative days and there has been little discussion of issues directly related to immigrants.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 97

Did You Know? Atlanta has a welcoming initiative that brings together city government and community leaders to create a more welcoming and inclusive Atlanta to attract and retain diverse talent, while ensuring that all Atlantans are meaningfully included and supported by our city programs, regardless of language or country of birth. If someone you know – or a parish you know – wants information to help support immigrants, this website is a good place to start http://www.welcomingatlanta.com/.

Some Asylum Seekers Are Being Released From Detention. The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will begin releasing from detention centers some women with credible cases of asylum. The USCCB and other organizations have been advocating for release from detention all women with children who do not show a risk to society http://www.ibtimes.com/immigration-reform-ice-scales-back-family-detention-those-showing-credible-fear-2007601.

Oral Argument on Lawfulness of Executive Action. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on a case brought by several states (including Georgia) challenging the lawfulness of the Administration’s executive action in deferring administrative action which would support certain immigrants, known as DAPA and extended DACA. Unfortunately, many observers believe that the Court will not support the Administration’s position. Regardless of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, however, the issue will very likely go to the Supreme Court for a final decision next year http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/judicial/247862-immigration-argument-at-the-fifth-circuit. In the meantime, eligible applicants are still able to seek administrative relief or renewal under the existing DACA program.

What Can We Do? How can we help? One essential for obtaining legalization will certainly be the ability to speak English. For any organization interested in finding ways to help immigrants now, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) is offering a webinar to help develop volunteer ESL programs. The ability to speak English is vital to a productive life in the United States   https://cliniclegal.org/calendar/training-teachers-tricks-tools-and-strategies-volunteer-based-language-learning-programs.

 

 

 

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 93

Family Detention Centers Are a “Stain” on the Country. Catholic bishops and their representatives continue to advocate against family detention centers. Bishops Jaime Soto and Eusebio Elizondo addressed the spring general assembly of the Catholic bishops of the United States and encouraged them to continue speaking out against the detention centers.   http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/bishops-use-immigrant-detention-centers-stain-us-administration Elizondo said he hopes Pope Francis will spotlight immigration reform during his September visit to the U.S., particularly during his Sept. 24 address to Congress.

Francis Effect on Global Immigration. As interest in the Pope’s September visit heats up over the summer, even the secular press recognizes how Pope Francis has affected the tenor of conversation on issues, particularly immigration http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/11/could-pope-francis-change-hearts-and-minds-on-immigration-on-a-global-scale/ The Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) now provides a compendium of quotations from the Holy Father on the subject of immigration. Very useful for preparing classes https://cliniclegal.org/sites/default/files/pope_quotes.pdf?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20ClinicResourcesFeed%20%28CLINIC%20Resources%20Feed%29.

Louisiana May Prohibit Marriage for the Undocumented. The Louisiana legislature has passed a law that would require documentation of lawful presence before issuing a marriage license. This type of legislation has not been introduced in Georgia but bears watching http://www.ibtimes.com/immigration-reform-2015-marriage-fraud-bill-targeting-undocumented-immigrants-1962516.

Happy Father’s Day to All Fathers! And be sure to pray for all fathers who are separated from their families for any reason, including those who cannot be united with their families because of immigration laws.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 92

Congress and the Public. While members of Congress continue skirmishing over immigration with no real progress in sight, public opinion holds steady with over 70% believing that the undocumented should be allowed to remain in the United States in a legal status http://www.people-press.org/2015/06/04/broad-public-support-for-legal-status-for-undocumented-immigrants/.

Unaccompanied Children- A Year Later. A year ago, the front pages were full of articles about children crossing the border from Central America. While the number of unaccompanied children has been reduced, approximately 40,000 of the 68,000 unaccompanied children from last year are still awaiting hearing in immigration court a year later http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2015/06/02/border-surge-year-later-tens-thousands-immigrant-children-remain-in-limbo/ . United States Immigration courts have a backlog of over 445,000 cases.

What has Pope Francis said about immigration? The Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) now provides a compendium of quotations from the Holy Father on the subject of immigration very useful for preparing classes https://cliniclegal.org/sites/default/files/pope_quotes.pdf?utm_source=twitterfeed& utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20ClinicResourcesFeed%20%2 8CLINIC%20Resources%20Feed%29.

 

LEGISLATIVE SUMMARY – END OF SESSION

The following is a brief update on the most significant legislation which the Conference followed during the 2015 session which concluded sine die on April 2. Governor Deal may sign or veto bills over the next forty (40) days but I do not anticipate a veto on legislation we have followed.

Bills that did not pass during this session may still be passed in the 2016 session.

Executive Summary of Key Developments:

Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) did not pass and remained tabled in the House Judiciary Committee.

There were no bills directly addressing abortion.

No bills passed increasing student scholarship organization (SSO) caps and no other bills passed to help parents in paying private school or home school expenses.

SB 8 passed to provide safe harbor for minors victimized by commercial sex trafficking and to establish a fund for rehabilitation of those victims of trafficking. A constitutional amendment will be voted on by the electorate in 2016 to stabilize funding for serving victims of trafficking.

Children with autism spectrum disorder will be helped by a mandate of insurance coverage for testing and treatment.

Senate took no action on a bill to allow in-state tuition for undocumented students at State colleges.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA): Status: Senate version passed Senate. Bishops of Georgia issued statement of support http://www.archatl.com/archbishops/declarations/2015-religious-freedom-restoration-act.html.

While a version of RFRA passed the Senate, it was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee. Despite much public and behind the scenes maneuvering, no bill emerged from the House.

Anti-abortion / Pro-life bills: Status – Monitoring and awaiting introduction of bills; obtained pro-life amendments to end of life bills.

There has been one bill introduced to clean up several problems in abortion reporting but it failed to get support in the House Insurance Committee and did not move toward passage this year.

SB 109 PASSED and will create greater specificity in the Physician Order Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) authorization. A POLST is a document with the authority of a doctor’s order which specifies treatment as a patient with a terminal condition. We are following the bill and have obtained amendments to make sure that end of life provisions are as consistent as possible with Catholic teaching. The bill includes a prohibition against use of POLST as authorization for assisted suicide http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/154019.pdf.

HB 429 PASSED both houses for the beneficial purpose of prohibiting insurance companies from restricting coverage for treatment based upon the insured’s diagnosis with a terminal condition.  Due to concerns about the possibility of using funds from Georgia insurance policies for assisted suicide in states where it is permitted, we obtained a specific exclusion against use for assisted suicide. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/153798.pdf

Parental Choice in Education: Support for increased “cap”; support for HB 243 related to education savings accounts; active monitoring of Education Commission.

The key to progress in education funding will be the education reform commission created by Governor Deal which will meet, hold hearings and render a report by August.

Several education items have been delayed until next year in waiting for the report, including any increase in the SSO “cap.”

The House Ways and Means Committee passed HB 243 to create education savings accounts to support a child’s educational expense needs in private schools or home school environments but there was insufficient support to bring the bill to the House floor for vote. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/150664.pdf

Victims of Human Trafficking: Status: PASSED by Senate and House. Support of revised bill.

SB 8 PASSED and provides that minors under age 18 who are victims of trafficking will not be criminally charged but will be able to obtain care. The bill will also establish the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and Commission. SB 8 also includes an extension of the civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse from age 23 to age 25. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/154017.pdf

SR 7 PASSED and will place on the 2016 general election ballot a proposed constitutional amendment which will allow funding of the Safe Harbor Fund with a court fee imposed on persons convicted of one of several sex based crimes and a one percent (1%) assessment on the gross receipts from adult entertainment facilities (i.e. “strip clubs”). Supporters of this legislation will need an active public campaign to have the electorate adopt this constitutional amendment since there is a general reluctance to increase any tax and because the adult entertainment industry will likely wage a quiet but well-funded effort to opposition to the tax on that industry. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/153975.pdf

Immigration: Opposition to SB 6 related to vehicle licenses and impoundment; support for SB 44 to allow in-state tuition for without regard to documentation.

Other than a public hearing, the Senate took no action on SB 44 which would have permitted undocumented student to enjoy in-state tuition at State colleges. There were several attempts to amend legislation to further restrict drivers’ licenses based on continuing opposition to President Obama’s administrative actions but, fortunately, all those efforts failed. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/145602.pdf

Insurance Coverage for Autism.  Status: PASSED Senate and House. Active monitoring and support. (HB 429)

The Autism insurance bill, formerly referred to as Senate Bill 1, was combined with HB 429 and PASSED. The bill requires insurance companies to provide coverage for autism spectrum disease with some limitations. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/153798.pdf

Death Penalty: SB 71 PASSED   

The bill is beneficial in opening Parole Board records related to its decisions so that both victims’ families and applicants for parole will have more information about the life and death decisions of the Board. The bill does not necessarily limit implement any restriction on the death penalty and is, at best, a first step in exposing fallacies around the death penalty issue.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 73

Congressional Activity. The 114th Congress convened on January 5 and the House of Representatives has already adopted legislation aimed at reversing the President’s decisions regarding administrative relief from deportation under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) program or the Deferred Action Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. Action in the Senate is uncertain but the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to monitor and advocate against such legislation.

Mexican Birth Certificates. The Mexican government has reportedly begun issuing birth certificates to persons born in Mexico through its consulates in the United States. This practice should be a big help for Mexican citizens living in the United States when they need birth certificates for any reason, especially in anticipation of DACA, DAPA or future legalization. In the next few days, we will attempt to verify when birth certificates could be available at the consulate in Atlanta.

Georgia General Assembly. The Georgia General Assembly convened on January 12, met for four days and went into recess until January 26 to allow time for budget hearings.

Finding a Lawyer. When seeking relief under the executive action procedures, it is important to use an experienced immigration lawyer. Finding the right lawyer is not always easy but there are affiliates of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) in Georgia and we can be confident in recommending them. See links at https://cliniclegal.org/clinic_affiliates/GA.

What steps can I take now? CLINIC has provided us with an updated list of helpful items that will, in all likelihood, be needed to process applications under the Deferred Action Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. The list is attached here.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 40

Georgia In-state Tuition. Thirty nine undocumented students continue to press a lawsuit in Fulton County demanding that individuals with immigration status under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) program be allowed to pay instate tuition at public universities. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 6. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national-govt-politics/judge-schedules-hearing-for-in-state-tuition-lawsu/nfT4K/

Federal Legislation. Congress has begun its Easter recess but continues to do nothing on immigration reform yet deportations continue at a record rate. Please encourage others to continue advocacy through the Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants website by contacting your representative. http://justiceforimmigrants.org/index.shtml

Scams against the Poor. Sad as it is to say, there are those who continue to prey on the poor, including the vulnerable undocumented. Please help protect the members of your parish who may be approached by some who purport to have a simple (but illegal) solution. As an example, we still hear of advertisements by representatives of the Yamassee Indian Tribe offering “adoption” into the tribe as a way to circumvent immigration law. Please keep available the flyers attached to the March 31 report and share them with undocumented brothers and sisters.

National Migration Conference. Please continue to prayerfully consider attending the National Migration Conference in Washington, DC on July 7-10.  http://nationalmigrationconference.org/ The workshops will include information for many different aspects of immigration ministry, not just attorney related topics. You can also join fellow Georgians as part of an advocacy day on Capitol Hill. If you have never participated in a coordinated advocacy day, this is an excellent way to participate in the company of experienced advocates.

I can provide additional information on request.