Fulfilling a campaign promise, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has sign into law a sweeping immigration bill that will affect companies in Georgia that employ more than 10 full-time employees. The law, HB87, requires companies to register with the federal E-Verify program and check the legal status of new hires. It also creates the offense of “aggravated identity theft” for the use of false information. In addition, it allows the police to question individuals about their immigration status and mandates sanctions for those who harbor or transport undocumented migrants.

HB87 passed by a vote of 112-59 in the lower house and 39-17 in the Senate. The Senate’s effort to block the portion of the bill that required use of the federal E-Verify system to ascertain the immigration status of employees failed.

In addition, businesses in Georgia must begin using E-Verify as early as January 1, 2012, depending on the size of the business. Those with 500 employees or more must begin using E-Verify on January 1, 2012; those with 100-499 employees, July 1, 2012; and those with 11-99 employees, July 1, 2013.

In addition, beginning July 1, 2011, anyone who knowingly transports or harbor an illegal immigrant or encourages an illegal immigrant to come to Georgia could be fined up to $1,000 and be imprisoned for up to 12 months.