Immigration affidavit required for government beneficiaries

ALBANY, Ga. -- Everyone who benefits from local government -- from local businesses, to employees, to jail inmates -- will be required, beginning this week, to state in writing that they are American citizens if they intend to keep getting tax dollars, officials say.

This week, individuals who are beneficiaries of the county revenues began receiving affidavits in the mail asking them to initial and sign the document saying that they are an American citizen or a legal alien and have it notarized.

The city and other local government entities must do the same.

"It's a part of a new state law," County Clerk Barbara Engram said. "The SAVE program just seeks to make sure that people who get public money are legal citizens or residents."

The letters from the county state that the letters are being sent to vendors, those who have contracts with the county, and those who have an alcohol license with the county.

Additionally, employees currently employed, as well as those receiving pensions for past work with the county will also receive the affidavits, County Administrator Richard Crowdis said.

The city is also requiring people who are doing business with them to fill out an affidavit, but their efforts do not include employees.

According to documents provided by the county, the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act expanded its definition of an "applicant" to the SAVE program to include "any natural person making a request for public benefits on behalf of an individual, business, corporation, partnership or other entity."

The definition of "agency or political subdivision," was also broadened to include authorities, commissions, or other governmental entities, the document states.

The changes also included a provision that requires public employers to publish their E-Verify -- a government program that allows employers to check their employees' immigration status through the Department of Homeland Security -- number on the government Web site.

The changes don't come without expense, however.

It will cost the county 50 cents to process and report each of the vendors or employees report themselves as not being a U.S. citizen. Plus a monthly fee to be connected to the national database.

Perhaps the biggest change will happen at the Dougherty County Jail. Under the changes to the Georgia law, nationality must be determined for any "prisoners that are held in a county or municipal jail...charged with a felony, DUI, driving without a license, or misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature."

That means a good portion of inmates who enter the jail would have to be checked for immigration status and, if found to be in the country illegally, would have to be reported to Homeland Security.

Jail officials are already close to being able to perform that mandate thanks to a piece of new technology that will be arriving soon, Jail Administrator, Col. John Ostrander said.

Currently every inmate that comes into the jail is booked and fingerprinted. Those fingerprints are sent instantly via an electronic database to the FBI and the GBI. Once the new technology is installed, those fingerprints will also go to the Department of Homeland Security and the Citizen and Immigration Services Department, he said.

"As far as I know, we'll be one of the first counties in the state to implement this technology and it will allow us to follow those mandates without having to do any additional work," Ostrander said.