MARIETTA — Rich Pellegrino of the Cobb Immigrant Alliance urged Gov. Deal not to sign a controversial new immigration bill during a Glover Park news conference Wednesday morning.
That Deal hasn’t yet signed the bill shows he has doubts about it, Pellegrino said.
“I think he’s definitely having second thoughts and taking a good look at how this is going to make Georgia look,” Pellegrino said.
A spokeswoman for Deal said that is not correct.
“We’re still going through the bill review process, but as of now, the governor still intends to sign HB 87,” spokeswoman Stephanie Mayfield said.
Pellegrino was accompanied by such opponents of the bill as Larry Pellegrini, a policy analyst for the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.
The activists argued that the proposed legislation would harm Georgia’s No. 1 industry, agriculture, in that farmers would not be able to find the needed workers to harvest their crops. The bill would also harm the state’s second-largest industry, tourism, in that groups and individuals would boycott the state in opposition to alleged racial profiling, they said.
Pellegrini said Arizona has already lost $140 million from cancelled tourism events as a result of its immigration law.
“We should not be following in Arizona’s footsteps and suffering like they have,” Pellegrini said.
Pellegrino said he was holding the news conference in Marietta because of Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren.
“This is ground zero for the whole immigration battle, because Sheriff Warren was one of the first in the nation to start the 287(g) program, which deputizes his deputies as immigration agents,” Pellegrino said. “They can start the process of deportation at the jail without (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). My objection is the same as Cobb County Police’s objection. The purpose of police is to build trust with everybody in the community. You can’t build trust if you’re seen as a deportation agent when you’re trying to solve crime.”
Warren’s program is ineffective, he said.
“There’s no less undocumented immigrants in Cobb County than there were at the beginning of that. If some leave, others replace them,” Pellegrino said.
The Austell resident blamed the program for causing the county’s budget problems.
“You were all at the commission meeting where they were going to close down libraries, where all of a sudden we have found ourselves in a deficit,” Pellegrino said. “It’s not rocket science to know businesses are closing, tax revenues are down when you chase out one group of people. I told the sheriff, he was worried about his budget being cut, I said, ‘It’s your fault. So called unintended consequences.’ Cobb County is an example of what will happen to the rest of Georgia. We’re going downhill. We have an underground crime problem that’s increasing.”
D.A. King, who founded the Dustin Inman Society, an anti-illegal immigration group, watched from the sidelines before rebutting his opponents.
“I’m very embarrassed that any of these people live in Cobb County. I think Rich Pellegrino has fulfilled all the expectations that most reasonable people have for him today,” King said. “The extortion effort aimed at our immigration laws here in Georgia is not fooling anyone. The race-baiting fringe that collected here on the Square today is an embarrassment to Cobb County and an insult to law enforcement in general with their constant accusations and predictions of racial profiling. We’ve had E-Verify in Georgia since 2006 — thank you, Chip Rogers. All we have done is expanded E-Verify to include all employers with more than 10 employees — thank you, Matt Ramsey. I’m very proud to be involved in getting the bill passed.”
Rogers, a Woodstock Republican, is the state Senate majority leader. Ramsey, a Republican state representative from Peachtree City, originated the legislation.