The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Legislator­s mull impact of border crossers

Hearing focuses on how migration will affect state’s future.

- By Lautaro Grinspan The Atlanta Journalcon­stitution and Report for America are partnering to add more journalist­s to cover topics important to our community. Please help us fund this important work at

At a state Senate committee meeting Friday, legislator­s gathered to discuss a surge of unauthoriz­ed immigratio­n at the U.s.-mexico border, and the implicatio­ns that is having and could have on Georgia.

Among the people lawmakers heard from were Georgia law enforcemen­t leaders and Texas local officials and anti-immigratio­n advocates, who painted a picture of near-apocalypti­c disorder in communitie­s close to the U.s.-mexico border. Committee members also discussed new patterns of drug traffickin­g at the border, and migrants’ susceptibi­lity to being victims of human traffickin­g.

“I want this … hearing to be a reality check. I want us to see what the problem really is,” said Georgia Sen. Colton Moore, R-trenton, chairman of the Senate Committee on Interstate Cooperatio­n.

In opening remarks, Moore noted that a group of unauthoriz­ed border crossers arrived in his northwest Georgia district last year, after getting off bus rides paid for by the Texas government to transport migrants to cities such as New York City and Washington, D.C.

“We certainly got an idea of what it means for every town to be a border town,” he said.

The committee’s four other members — all Democrats — were absent from the Friday hearing. But flanking Moore on the dais was State Sen. Josh Mclaurin, D-sandy Springs.

“I think this is an issue that all Americans should be concerned about,” he said. “I think what most voters want from us, as different parties trying to serve in the same Legislatur­e, is to recognize when an issue is important, regardless of what it is.”

Among the first to speak to the lawmakers was Georgia National Guard Major General Tom Carden, who said 126 members of the state’s National Guard are deployed at the southwest border to assist the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Carden explained that the Georgia National Guard doesn’t come in direct contact with migrants, but rather supports with intelligen­ce initiative­s.

As frequently referenced over the course of the threehour-long hearing, there has been a surge in border crossings under President Joe Biden. In fiscal year 2022, U.S. authoritie­s stopped migrants 2.8 million times at the U.s.-mexico border — surpassing the previous record set just a year earlier. But a new border crackdown rolled out last month has already sent the number of migrant apprehensi­ons plummeting.

Georgia Bureau of Investigat­ion inspector Jeff Roesler said migrants who find their way to Georgia — whether they crossed the border illegally or not — are among the people most likely to fall prey to human traffickin­g and exploitati­on schemes. They’re made vulnerable, he said, by the need to repay the sometimes exorbitant fees that intermedia­ries or smugglers might have charged them to get them in the country.

“They’re coming to make a difference for their family. They are coming to provide. …

“But what’s happening when they get here is that the amount of money that they owe keeps going up, so they’re in debt and they have no foreseeabl­e way to get out of that debt but to continue to work.”

Roesler said that a recent focus of the GBI’S newly created Human Exploitati­on and Traffickin­g Unit has been on agricultur­al labor traffickin­g.

Georgia made national headlines roughly a year ago when federal prosecutor­s said dozens of Latin American farmworker­s were trapped in “modern-day slavery” on South Georgia farms.

The Senate hearing gave extended speaking time to a delegation from Texas made up of two local sheriffs, a local judge, a state representa­tive, and the president of Texans for Strong Borders, among others, who touched on cartel activity at the border and described communitie­s “overrun” by migrants.

Referring multiple times to an “invasion” at the border, they needled the Biden administra­tion for what they said amounted to inaction around border enforcemen­t, and a “wide open” border policy.

However, funding and staffing levels for border protection have remained stable between the Trump and Biden tenures.

Border enforcemen­t policies were not discontinu­ed.

The Texan speakers said Georgia leadership can show support for the situation at the border by contributi­ng funds to the building of a border wall, or by joining Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in formally declaring an invasion.

 ?? ARVIN TEMKAR/AJC FILE 2023 ?? State Sen. Colton Moore, R-trenton, pictured in January, spoke at a recent hearing about migrants. Moore said border crossers arrived in his district last year.
ARVIN TEMKAR/AJC FILE 2023 State Sen. Colton Moore, R-trenton, pictured in January, spoke at a recent hearing about migrants. Moore said border crossers arrived in his district last year.

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