The legislature late Thursday passed the measure that would empower police to check the immigration status of "criminal" suspects and force many businesses to do the same with potential employees.
Immigrant advocates threatened a state boycott if it became law, and Georgia's powerful agricultural industry warned that federal guest-worker programs alone could not provide enough laborers to meet farmers' needs.
Deal campaigned last year on the promise of implementing an Arizona-style law in a state with, according to one 2009 estimate, 480,000 illegal immigrants - about 20,000 more than Arizona.
Whether or not it is enacted, Georgia's legislation underscores the increasingly disparate strategies that states are invoking in lieu of a comprehensive federal plan to deal with illegal immigration.
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a federal judge's order striking down parts of the Arizona law that was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer last year. Among the rejected sections was a provision requiring police to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop whom they also suspect to be illegal immigrants.
Some states, including Florida, are considering significant immigration bills, but others, including Nebraska and Colorado, have rejected such bills recently. Utah passed immigration-control legislation last month but softened its effects by also passing a law that creates "guest worker" ID cards for undocumented immigrants.
In a provision with similarities to the most contentious part of the Arizona law, the Georgia bill gives police the authority to check a suspect's immigration status if the suspect is unable to produce a valid ID and if the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a "criminal offense." If the person is verified as an illegal immigrant, police can detain that person or notify federal authorities.
The bill outlaws the use of fake IDs to secure employment and the transporting or harboring of illegal immigrants while knowingly committing another crime. The biggest sticking point proved to be the provision that all but the smallest companies use the federal system called E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires.
Critics from the farm lobby said E-Verify was not totally accurate and put employers at risk of lawsuits if they erroneously denied a legal resident a job.
If Georgia's bill becomes law, it is also likely to wind up in court. Peter Spiro, a Temple University law professor, said its fate may hinge on whether Arizona's laws pass constitutional muster.