Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

3/31 – Care2 – Georgia Anti-Immigrant Measures Unite Latinos, Blacks (VIDEO)

Georgia Anti-Immigrant Measures Unite Latinos, Blacks (VIDEO).

Georgia Anti-Immigrant Measures Unite Latinos, Blacks (VIDEO)

posted by: Jessica Pieklo 13 hours ago
Georgia Anti-Immigrant Measures Unite Latinos, Blacks (VIDEO)

While union-busting may have replaced immigrant-bashing as the wedge-de-jour for the Republican party, that has not stopped them from continuing their state-by-state campaign to eradicate this country of any person perceived as illegal.

So far those efforts have met with mostly effective results as far as Republicans are concerned.  Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Utah and a host of other states have pushed “papers please” legislation and a variety of other measures designed at stripping public benefits from undocumented workers and their citizen children.  And while not receiving the attention it once did, efforts to undo birthright citizenship guarantees of the 14th Amendment have not gone away.

What then will the GOP do with the news that even in Georgia their strategy of bashing the largest-growing sector of the American populace has done more to unite minority groups against them than to successfully pursue their political agenda.

Last week the country’s largest Legislative Black Caucus and approximately nine thousand immigrants marched on the Georgia Capitol and Republican lawmakers moved two anti-immigrant bills through committees.

The issue has ignited Georgia Democrats who have linked the anti-immigrant measures with the state’s brutal slave past.  Representative Stacey Abrams, House Minority Leader and the first black to lead the Georgia House Democrats made explicit the connection between the bill’s “papers please” provisions and slavery.  Representative Al Williams pulled out a young woman’s slave pass from Georgia’s antebellum days and read aloud the provisions detailing where and at what times the woman was permitted to walk around by herself.

And to top the event off was an emotional plea from U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The Republican’s Southern strategy depends on keeping more whites voting Republican than blacks vote Democratic.  But given the enormous influx of immigrants due to widespread agriculture jobs, that is a strategy that is showing its age and its inherent racism.

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March 31, 2011

3/30 – Creative Loafing – Jason Carter: HB 87 rewrite still “bad for our state” | Atlanta News & Opinion Blog | Fresh Loaf | Creative Loafing Atlanta

Jason Carter: HB 87 rewrite still “bad for our state” | Atlanta News & Opinion Blog | Fresh Loaf | Creative Loafing Atlanta.

Jason Carter: HB 87 rewrite still “bad for our state”

Posted by Gwynedd Stuart on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 3:11 PM

The fate of HB 87 will soon be decided

Yesterday, without appearing on the agenda, a new version of HB 87 — legislation intended to crack down on illegal immigration — landed in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was passed by a vote of 5 to 4.Jason Carter (D-Decatur) was among the committee members who voted against the bill, along with fellow democrats Vincent Fort (Atlanta) and Ronald Ramsey (Lithonia), and republican John Crosby (Tifton). Carter told CL today that the revised legislation was introduced “about five minutes” before it was voted on. Among the changes he noticed were adjustments to what would have amounted to law enforcement on a “person-to-person basis.” Penalties on businesses who don’t check their employees status against the Federal E-Verify database were also apparently removed. “It makes some improvements,” said Carter, “but it’s still an Arizona-style immigration bill. It’s still the kind of thing that’s bad for our state.”

The vote would have been 4-4, so ex-officio member Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) was brought in to ensure it passed.

Human rights groups are up in arms about the surreptitious manner in which the vote took place. Paulina Hernandez, director of the group Southerners on New Ground, released the following statement:

“Our legislators should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this kind of cowardly game playing to take place at our state capitol. Casting secret votes when the bill is listed on no calendar, and the public is given no notice or chance to testify is indefensible. What are the lawmakers scared of that they will go to such lengths to push this bill through in secret? Clearly our legislators were startled by last week’s showing of 9000 people at the Capitol loudly expressing their opposition to HB 87 and instead of facing up to the criticism, chose to essentially secretly push the bill through. They should know that their blatant disregard of their own rules and democratic processes will not go unnoticed or unchallenged.”

You can read the new version of the bill here.

March 31, 2011

3/31 – Charles Kuck – Musings on Immigration: There They Go Again–The Georgia Legislature and Immigration

Musings on Immigration: There They Go Again–The Georgia Legislature and Immigration.

This week both branches of the Georgia State Legislature have been busy in trying to pass anti-immigration legislation. The curious part of their efforts is what appears to be a complete lack of communication between the branches and what their specific purposes are. 

THE GEORGIA HOUSE DISSES THE GEORGIA SENATE
On Monday, the Georgia House completely eviserated the Senate version of the anti-immigration legislation by substituting, in whole, for the entire SB 40, with what it was HB 87. Unfortunately, the committee chair and the bill’s sponsor were not completely truthful with the public, or with their committee members about the actual content of the “new” SB 40, better known now at HB 87 “Heavy.” Sections 1 through 9 of HB 87 and HB 87 Heavy are identical. Section 11 through 18, and Sections 20 through 22 also are identical. BUT, there are two significant and otherwise unnoticed changes in Section 10, and in Section 19.
First, in Section 10, the House has added an entire new section of the Georgia Code, to be known as 16-11-203. You will find this language in the last paragraph of Section 10:
The testimony of a witness with knowledge of any officer, employee, or agent of the federal government having confirmed that a person is an illegal alien shall be admissible to prove that the federal government has verified such person to be present in the United States in violation of federal immigration law. Verification that a person is present in the United States in violation of federal immigration law may also be established by any document authorized by law to be recorded or filed and in fact recorded or filed in a public office where items of this nature are kept.
What does this mean? For those lawyers out there the meaning is clear. Hearsay evidence can now be used to put people in state prison for fifteen years! For potential criminal defendants, you no longer have the right to face your accuser! No right to prove to the person who said you were in violation of federal immigration law that they are wrong. And, we all know about how wrong the federal databases can be, about how complicated immigration law is, and how difficult it is to ascertain whether someone is “illegal” in the United States. Obviously, the Georgia State Bar should get immediately involved, as should the criminal defense bar, to stop what is a wholesale sellout of the criminal justice system.
To give you an example as to how broad this language could be: E-Verify is a government database. E-Verify determines employment eligibity, but since it ties into the USCIS database, it is arguably a database that can be relied on to verify status. An employer who enrolls in E-Verify, has an agreement with DHS, and is thus an “agent” of ICE (read the MOU). Can the Georgia court rely on the testimony of an E-Verify employer about a person’s non-eligiblity for work to convict someone of transporting, harboring, or inducing an alien? Clearly, that is what the House is hoping for if this language remains in the bill. Or did they have other motives? We do not know, becuase Chairman Golick and Rep. Ramsey did not allow any questioning or review of the bill or public testimony on it before it was passed summarily out of the House Judiciary Committee!
Section 19 of HB 87 Heavy is also different from HB 87. In the addition of Section 50-36-2 to the Georgia Code, subsection (e) is amended to add a new sub-subsection (8) and push the prior sub-subection (8) down to sub-subsection (9). The new sub-section (8) reads, refering to who this code section does NOT apply to:

Paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of Code Section 40-5-21 or paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of Code Section 40-5-21.1;

What the heck does that mean? The first part refers to this language within the statute governing who are exempt from carrying a Georgia driver’s licenses:
 

(2) A nonresident who is at least 16 years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid license issued to him or her in his or her home state or country; provided, however, that any restrictions which would apply to a Georgia driveŕs license as a matter of law would apply to the privilege afforded to the out-of-state license;

The second reference is to this language allowing FOR a grant of a driver’s license to specific people who present evidence of their specific immigration status:
 

2) A pending or approved application for asylum in the United States;

 

Now, that is quite interesting. People who have a pending or approved asylum application, or who have a foreign license are now NOT subject to the provisions of Secure and Verifiable Identity Document Act? I guess that everyone who is undocumented in Georgia should not apply for asylum? Or, if I am undocumented person from Zimbabwe, and I manage to get a Zimbabwean Driver’s License, I do not have to produce any other id? Or if I move to Utah, get a Utah Driver’s Privilege Card, and then “visit” Georgia, I am also not subject to this Act? Really? And, how are the police to know where the person actually lives? Why would Representatives Ramsey and Golick make these changes? Under pressure from the “KIA Go Home” folks? Again, no one knows, since there was no public hearing, and they both said there were no changes to the bill from HB 87 to HB 87 Heavy. So, they either lied about the changes, or someone snuck them in without them knowing about them. Curious minds would love to know who!
Nonetheless, my other comments about the bill remain the same. Parts of it are blatantly unconstitutional, others are legal but bad public policy. In a blog I hope to have up tomorrow, I will go through the Constitutional arguments in detail, but suffice it to say, that if HB 87 becomes law, it will see the inside of a courtroom before it sees the light of day.
THE GEORGIA SENATE TAKES A SMALL STEP BACK FROM THE BRINK (NOT REALLY)

On Wednesday, at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee which FAILED TO PROVIDE NOTICE OF THE CONSIDERATION OF HB 87, the Judiciary Committee voted 4 to 4 to not pass HB 87 out of committee. But wait! To the rescue (for the anti-immigration forces), rode in State Senator Jeff Mullis, who is NOT a member of the Judiciary COmmittee, and who is not even an Ex-Officio member of the Judiciary Committee, and cast a 5th and deciding vote FOR passing HB 87 out of committee for consideration by the full Senate. Wow! Is that legal ? (Probably not, but legality appears to be the least of the problems here).
The Senate Judiciary Committee, apparently, not taking too kindly to being dissed House Judiciary Committee, in turn also submitted a substitute bill for HB 87. Let’s call this one HB 87 “Light.” HB 87 Light takes it basic sections from SB 40. HB 87 Light has a significant number of changes to the House passed version of HB 87, but not enough to make it a bill any legitimate politician should be proud to be a part of.
Section 2 of the HB 87 Light is taken from Section 1 of the Senate passed SB 40 (by adding a new Section 1 with the misleading title of the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.” Is someone reforming illegal immigration?). There are no effective changes in Section 2 of HB 87 Light from SB 40.
Section 3 HB 87 Light is likewise identical to Section 2 of SB 40.
The real changes occur in Section 4. Section 4 is actually the language found in Section 7 of HB 87 Heavy, creating the NEW crime of Aggravated Identity Fraud (College kids making up an ID to get a job at a bar). (That is what it is for, no?). Similarly, Section 5 of HB 87 Light is identical to Section 8 of HB 87 Heavy, which creates a 15 year state criminal sentence and a $250,000 fine for anyone using a fake id to get employment. Unfortunately, I did not find the budget appropropiation that appears to be needed to accompany this bill, which is necessary to build more prisons to hold all the people that will be convicted under it. Finally, Section 9 of HB 87 Light is identical to SEction 9 of HB 87 Heavy, and creates exempetions to the crime created in Section 4.
Section 7 of HB 87 Light is virtually identical to Section 10 of HB 87 Heavy, and is the Section which creates the crimes of harboring, transporting and inducing of undocumented immigrants in Georgia. Apparently, no one bothered to tell the Senate that the House Judiciary Committee had added that new section 16-11-203 to their version of the bill, and thus, the sections are not identical. Perhaps, the Senate just felt it was not necessary to eviserate 200 years of jurisprudence and allow hearsay evidence to convict people and send them to prison for 15 years?
Actually, we do not know what the Senate Judiciary Committee thought about this bill, because they had NO debate on it, no consideration of these changes, no public testimony about the bill, and basically railroaded it through to the vote in about five minutes. Remind anyone of Wisconsin?
Okay, back to the Bill. Section 8, 9, 10, and 11 of HB 87 Light are identical to Section 11, 12, 13, and 14 of HB 87 Heavy. Of course, section 8 of HB 87 Light is Section 11 of HB 87 Heavy, and is the section that forces local police to abandon its policy of community policy and having the public trust police officers, by making “peace” officers (a more broad term than the police), run immigration background checks on persons he or she stops to investigate for crimes (including traffic offenses, such as having to darkly tinted windows). The counter argument from the anti-immigration people is that this is not unconstitutional becuase they have prohibited profiling. As my kids would say: “whatever.” More to follow on that in my next blog.

These Sections also still deal with the fiction that counties are not cooporating with ICE enough, and they must be told to do so again (even though Secrure Communities will be fully online in Georgia within 18 months).
A small substantive changes to HB 87 Heavy occurs in Section 12 of HB 87 Light. In section 12 of HB 87 Light, which takes its structure from Section 17 of HB 87 Heavy, the Georgia Senate has decided to adopt in full the language from HB 87 Heavy that requires that before a business of more than 4 employees obtains a business licnese, they must prove that they have enrolled in E-Verify. The whole debate supporting agriculture, apparently was ignored now by the Senate, which apparently no longer cares that it will effectively destroy large parts of Georgia’s largest business. One, difference in Section 12, is key, however. The Senate version does NOT have subsection (d) which requires government entities to send a report to the Department of Audits each year confirming they are complying with the new requirements. Other sections within HB 87 Light are simply re-lettered and reordered, but are not effectively changed in any way.
Section 13 of HB 87 Light is identical to Section 15 of HB 87 Heavy, and still requires that individuals detained by the local law enforcement check the immigration status of detainees. This is already being done in most of Georgia. Section 14 of HB 87 Light is identical to HB 87 Heavy.
Section 15 of HB 87 LIght 15 merely adds the term “agency head” to a preexisting list of public officials and businesses that can be fined for violations of Georgia’s Code of Ethics. I could not find a similar section in HB 87 Heavy.
Section 16 of HB 87 Light is adopted from Section 2 of HB 87 Heavy, but makes some substantial changes. As you may recall HB 87 Heavy, under pressure from D.A. King, has created a private right of action against local governments, to allow him to sue to enforce the requirements that local governments enroll in E-Verify, use the SAVE System for benefits, and to not create a Sanctuary Policy, even though all of these things are already being done by the local governments, and no place in Georgia has a sanctuary policy. Section 16 eliminates that private right of action, and simply makes the Attorney General responsible for enforcing complaints of non-compliance brought by citizens. Frankly, this is a much more sensible approach to this non-issue.
Section 17 of HB 87 Light has no related section in HB 87 Heavy. This section disallows deductions for wages or labor services for state income tax purposes unless the individual is an unauthorized employee. It has some HUGE exceptions.
1. It does not apply to an employee hired before January 1, 2012.
2. It does not apply to persons who are not directly compensated (contractors); and
3. It does not aply to folks who have a Georgia Driver’s License.
Frankly, it seems like it does not apply at all!! While some would say that this is the carrot approach to urging businesses to use E-Verify, all it really does is create situations where “independent contractors” are used, rather than employees. This, of course, creates other issues, but is, nonetheless a loophole large enough to drive a semi-tractor trailer through.
Section 18 of HB 87 Light also has no related section in HB 87 Heavy. This section merely creates the definition of “Agency Head,” which apparently never existed previously, and which is a BROAD defintiion designed to capture as many public officials and employees within its grasp as possible, in the context of accepting “affdivaits of residence” for benefits in Georgia.
Section 19 of HB 87 Light is also without a counterpart in HB 87 Heavy. It merely changes some wording of an existing statute related to the affidavit of lawful presence currently required for receiving public benefits in Georgia.
Along the same vein Section 20 of HB 87 Light (with no HB 87 Heavy counterpart), creates a new crime/sanction category for “Agency Heads” who fail to abide by the requirements of accepting this Affidavit of Residence. I have heard of no evidence to suggest that this is an issue anywhere in Georgia, but who said the legislature actually need to facts to supports it actions!
Section 21 of HB 87 Light is almost identical to Section 19 of HB 87 Heavy, and creates the “Secure and Verifable Identity Document Act.” Again, much like the changes that the House Judiciary Committee made in Section 10 of HB 87 Heavy that were not communicated to the Senate, no one told the Senate that the House had added a new provision in this Section, excempting asylum applicants, asylees, and folks with foreign and other state’s driver’s licenses from the effects of this bill.
Section 22, 23, and 24 in HB 87 Light are identical to HB 87 Heavy, in that they contain a severability clause and effective dates. Good thing, becuase that severability clause will come in handy when parts of this bill are found unconstitutional!
The bottom line on the actions by the Senate in creating HB 87 Light–
It is kinder to local governments;
It is not any kinder to businesses;
It does not mean that Georgia business will compy with E-Verify;
It still is designed to scare immigrants of all kinds out of Georgia;
And,
It still says that Georgia is the Arizona of the South.
Let’s tell the Senate that these cosmetic differences CANNOT change the simple fact that this bill is a failure. It will not accomplish what they want it to accomplish, but what it will do is drive jobs out of Georgia, create a climate of fear in ALL immigrant communities, regardless of status, and will give Georgia a national black eye that will linger for a long time in the eyes of America. Georgia should follow the lead of Colorado, Mississippi, Kentucky, Kansas, and Nebraska and stop this legislation before it is too late. True reform lies only in Washington, D.C., and these legislators should better spend their time convincing our Congressman to act, rather than passing illegal and bad public policy.

March 31, 2011

3/30 – BuzzFlash – Black Lawmakers in Georgia Show Solidarity with Immigration Rights | BuzzFlash.org

Black Lawmakers in Georgia Show Solidarity with Immigration Rights | BuzzFlash.org.

 

KUNG LI FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

What happens when the country’s largest Legislative Black Caucus comes face to face with nine thousand immigrants – many of them declaring themselves as undocumented – chanting aqui estamos, y no nos vamos! (we are here, and we’re not leaving!)?

Love. Or a mad crush, at least.

It happened Thursday March 24, 2011, on the steps outside the Georgia Capitol, as Republican lawmakers inside moved two Arizona-style anti-immigrant bills through the legislative process. HB87 and SB40 are Georgia’s versions of Arizona’s SB1070, the racial profiling law that is on appeal after being found unconstitutional by a federal district court. That SB1070 has cost the Grand Canyon state $217 million in lost conventions and tourism without ever having been implemented has not deterred Georgia’s Republican legislators from copycatting. Nor have pleas from the powerful agriculture industry, which relies on low-wage immigrant labor to turn a profit.

Georgia’s immigrants have rallied before – most notably in 2006, when tens of thousands poured into Plaza Fiesta, the unofficial central plaza of Latino Atlanta – but never in these numbers in front of the Capitol building, and never so defiantly.

Rally organizers had only three members of Georgia’s Legislative Black Caucus confirmed on speaker list.  But as the rally grew in size and sound, black legislators started leaving their committee meetings to step outside and have a look see. The energy of the crowd pushed some to the microphone.

Representative Stacey Abrams asked to speak and got a roar from the crowd. As the House Minority Leader and the first black to lead the Georgia House Democrats, Representative Abrams had encouraged black legislators to make explicit the connection between the bill’s “show me your papers” provisions and slavery. And so during the floor debate of HB87 two weeks earlier, Representative Al Williams had pulled out a young woman’s slave pass from Georgia’s antebellum days and read aloud the provisions detailing where and at what times the woman was permitted to walk around by herself.

By the time Senator Emanuel Jones, Chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, came outside, people were packed so tightly that the Capitol police had blocked off the street. Senator Jones took one look at the spirited, mostly Latino crowd and grabbed the microphone to make clear the Black Caucus and the Democratic Caucus had taken a stand against the copycat bills. Si se puede!, shouted Senator Jones. The crowd yelled back, Yes we can!

A group of Dreamers – undocumented students fighting for passage of the Dream Act to open a pathway to citizenship for them – turned the clamor into courage with a chant Dreamers have been using when facing arrest during their sit-in protests. The Dreamers said, Undocumented! The crowd responded, and Unafraid! Saying so made it so.

Abrams, Jones, and other members of the Black Caucus, in the meantime, had left the rally to go find Congressman John Lewis. The hero of the civil rights movement was in town attending a luncheon.  They showed him pictures of the rally. He left the luncheon. Half an hour later, the Congressman made his way through the crowd to give what is perhaps his most impassioned speech in years:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3nE6eC-4wM

If this isn’t love, then grits ain’t groceries.

Forty years ago, the Republican’s Southern strategy predicted that southern whites would flee the Democratic Party once African Americans started voting Democrat. So long as blacks remain an electoral minority, Republican power – and white power – will be secure. The culmination of the strategy came during the 2010 elections: in the South, the two parties are now largely split down racial lines, with white Republicans in control of every Southern state.

But what the Southern strategy did not predict was the influx of immigrants into the South. The rally in Atlanta last week suggests there is a counter-strategy in the making.

March 31, 2011

3/31 – The Georgia Bulletin – Immigration Debate Brings Thousands To Capitol

Immigration Debate Brings Thousands To Capitol

The Newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Published: March 31, 2011

(Starting third from the left) Esmeralda Orozco, Nora Soto and Miguel Orozco of Our Lady of the Americas Mission, Lilburn, hold their signs among the thousands of protestors on hand voicing their opposition to House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40. The March 24 immigration rally took place in front of the Georgia State Capitol. (Photo by Michael Alexander)

ATLANTA—Catholics were among the thousands that filled the streets surrounding the state Capitol in opposition to proposed laws targeting illegal immigrants. Critics say the proposals will weaken the state’s economy and lead to racial profiling.

The crowd railed against two bills—House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40.

The protesters held signs like “The pilgrims were undocumented” and “No human being is illegal.” Throughout the rally, the crowd chanted in Spanish: “Yes, we can!”

Nora Soto, 35, who is in school to learn hairdressing, spent Thursday, March 24, on Washington Street, in the shadow of the Capitol’s gold dome. She worships at Our Lady of the Americas Mission in Lilburn.

“It’s going to separate families. It’s not fair. We came here to work and find a better life,” said Soto, who has lived in the United States for 20 years.

Soto was one of a reported 6,000 people at the rally, which featured musicians, priests, political leaders and activists.

(Front row, starting third from the left) Mario Martinez and Saul Hernandez of Atlanta, Saul Miranda of Forest Park and Vanessa Kosky of Atlanta respond to the positive encouragement from one of the rally speakers. (Photos by Michael Alexander)

The proposals would broaden the powers of local police to enforce immigration laws and would require businesses to use an online verification system when hiring. The bills would also create criminal penalties for assisting people who are in the country illegally.

Each bill has passed in the chamber where it originated. A compromise measure is expected to take shape in the final days of this legislative session.

Georgia isn’t alone in trying to deal with illegal immigration. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2010, 46 states and the District of Columbia enacted 208 laws dealing with immigration and refugees.

Pedro “Pete” Marin of District 96, who represents part of Gwinnett County, speaks with conviction and emotion as he stands before the immigration rally crowd. Participating in the background, left, is Jesuit Father Edward Salazar, a retreat director at Ignatius House Retreat Center.

An upswing in Latino immigrants—both legal residents and undocumented workers—has kept the issue alive. The 2009 American Community Survey counted 735,125 Hispanic residents in Georgia, which is a 69 percent increase since the 2000 census. But overall, Latinos make up a small percentage of all residents, about 8 percent of the state’s population of over 9 million.

Father Carlos Vargas Silva, parochial vicar at St. Andrew Church, Roswell, and a native of Colombia, South America, addresses the crowd of thousands during the immigration rally in downtown Atlanta.

At the same time, the state has the seventh-largest population of illegal immigrants in the country, numbering some 425,000, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Heidi M. Tauscher, director of parish and social justice ministries for the Atlanta Archdiocese, called the proposed law “harsh.”

“The bill adversely impacts all of us because of the way immigrants here today serve our interests, economically, physically. They perform valuable service. They harvest our crops. They clean our buildings; they service our equipment. If they are discouraged from staying or forced to leave, we are the ones that are going to suffer,” she said.

Parishioners and ministries that care for the poor and the marginalized may face obstacles if the law is enacted, she said. The proposed law penalizes people who “transport,” “harbor” or “entice” illegal immigrants, which ministries may unknowingly do, she said.

“They have to now worry they could be caught up in the net,” she said.

Despite a provision in the bill that says otherwise, some people will be impacted more than others, Tauscher said.

Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart Veronica Ramos holds an image of Our Lady of the Guadalupe in her hand as she joins the March 24 immigration rally.

“If you are an immigrant, or if you look like an immigrant, you are most likely going to be impacted much more severely than somebody that doesn’t share the same appearance,” she said.

Georgia lawmakers sponsoring the House version of the bill issued a statement after the rally that read, “There are millions of Georgia citizens working and raising their families who no longer are willing to accept the loss of job opportunities to the nearly 500,000 illegal aliens in our state or to subsidize their presence with their hard-earned tax dollars.”

Eleven-year-old Stephanie Hernandez of Dunwoody, second from right, holds a sign above her head during the immigration rally that started in the morning but continued well into the afternoon.

A broad number of groups oppose the legislation, from human rights groups to business leaders, the Georgia Farm Bureau and religious organizations.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat, urged the crowd to fight the proposals. He said during the civil rights movement he was arrested 40 times to protest Jim Crow laws and fighting immigration laws may require people to get arrested. Immigration law needs to be handled by the federal government, not on a state-by-state basis, he said.

Georgia’s Catholic bishops issued a statement in early March that urged state lawmakers to “be part of the solution to (immigration) challenges, not create more division.”

The religious leaders called on “Georgia state representatives to resist the imposition of harsh and unnecessary legislation affecting all residents of Georgia, further tearing apart the fabric of our communities and jeopardizing our future.”

Frank Mulcahy, executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, said legislators would likely debate the proposals soon. In the end, the decision may come down to Gov. Nathan Deal, who endorsed strong immigration controls during last November’s election, he said.

“He’s coming to realize the issue is not that simple. There can be costs to the state of Georgia if the legislation passes,” he said.

The church stands with a lot of different groups opposing the bill and there is a broad coalition of people and groups opposed to it, he said.

“It leaves a lot of people vulnerable,” he said.

Several pastors and priests joined their parishioners at the rally to show their support.

Father José Duván Gonzalez, pastor of St. Bernadette Church in Cedartown, spoke at the event.

“They are very afraid. They are in panic. They are very, very afraid. If the laws are approved, they will be in the basement,” he said about parishioners.

Speakers warned the state would take a financial hit if individuals or organizations boycott the state if the legislation becomes law.

Protesters said people arguing for the tough laws have the wrong idea of the dreams of illegal immigrants.

“They need to know us,” said Soto.

“We are not the people they say we are. They think we came here only to have children and to take money away. We came here to work and to get a better education,” she said.

A house cleaner, Lina said, “We want a better life for the children. It’s not about us.”

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she talked about her fear for her children. Lina, who attends Our Lady of the Americas Mission, gave only her first name because she said she is not in the country legally. A native of Colombia, Lina is a mother of two, has lived in the country for a dozen years.

“For us, it’s a sacrifice because we want a better life for our children,” she said, in Spanish.

“We need to help each other and support each other,” she said.

March 31, 2011

3/30 – macon.com – Ga. Senate panel approves House immigration bill – State news – Macon.com

Ga. Senate panel approves House immigration bill – State news – Macon.com.

Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011

 

– Associated Press

ATLANTA — A Georgia Senate committee on Wednesday approved an altered version of a House bill that aims to crack down on illegal immigration but kept intact many provisions similar to those in a tough law enacted last year in Arizona.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, but the version that cleared the panel is a hybrid of Ramsey’s bill and a similar measure sponsored by Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming. A House committee on Monday had gutted Murphy’s bill and substituted the text of Ramsey’s bill.

The version of Ramsey’s bill that was approved by the Senate committee still would authorize law-enforcement officers to check the immigration status of certain criminal suspects and penalize people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants, provisions also in Arizona’s law. The new version also retains language that would require employers with more than four workers to verify the immigration status of new hires using a federal database called E-Verify. It also would make it a felony to “willfully and fraudulently” present false documentation when applying for a job.

The new version does not include a section that would have allowed individual citizens to sue local governments and agencies that don’t use federal databases to check the legal status of new hires and people who apply for public benefits. Instead it would allow any registered Georgia voter to file a complaint with the attorney general if non-compliance with those state laws is suspected. The attorney general’s office would then be authorized to investigate such a complaint and levy a fine.

The version of Ramsey’s bill that was approved by the Senate committee also includes language from Murphy’s bill regarding the verification requirements for contractors and subcontractors and adds language that says employers can’t exempt the wages of employees on their state income tax returns unless they use E-Verify.

Ramsey said Wednesday afternoon he had not seen the new committee version of his bill but that he wasn’t surprised there were changes, that it’s all part of the process of getting a comprehensive immigration law passed.

“We’re keeping the process moving,” he said. “We’re committed to getting a bill through.”

Ramsey’s bill was not originally on the committee’s agenda for Wednesday but was added at the last minute. Some opponents of the bill decried what they called a lack of transparency.

“Obviously they’re trying to hide something if they’re trying to sneak it through, which is shameful,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. “It’s still an ugly bill. It’s an Arizona-style bill.”

Sen. Bill Hamrick, R-Carrollton and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said in a statement that the committee has held numerous meetings on the issue and that Wednesday’s committee action represents a positive step forward.

“Illegal immigration is a costly crisis that places an undue burden on Georgia families,” he said. “We have worked diligently for the past year to produce comprehensive, economical and enforceable reform of our immigration system.”

The House and Senate bills now move to the rules committees in the opposite chambers of the Legislature to determine if and when they will come up for full chamber votes. Murphy and Ramsey have both said a joint committee will likely be convened to develop a final product that can make it through both chambers.



Read more: http://www.macon.com/2011/03/30/1507345/ga-senate-committee-passes-house.html#ixzz1IBdOgoWQ

 

March 30, 2011

3/30 – People’s World – Georgia activists denounce anti-immigrant bills » peoplesworld

Georgia activists denounce anti-immigrant bills » peoplesworld.

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Georgia state lawmakers are considering tough anti-immigrant bills similar to Arizona’s draconian and controversial SB 1070, which passed last year.

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal supports tough laws on immigration. State legislators are proposing two anti-immigrant bills, House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40. Both resemble hard enforcement on immigration similar to Arizona’s.

For example the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011” would require businesses to use the E-verify system to insure employees are U.S. citizens. It also allows police that apprehend a suspect for any crime, including a traffic violation, to check their immigration status. The bill would also make it against the law to “knowingly transport an illegal immigrant” in the state. It also requires any agency administering public help to require proof of citizenship.

Immigrant rights activist say the legislation is racist.

Teodoro Maus, president of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, said the bill would strip people’s civil, human and constitutional rights. They all go out the window, he said.

Last week, more than 3,000 people surrounded the State Capitol in Atlanta to rally for immigrant rights and to protest the anti-immigrant bills. Activists say they’ve already compiled a list of companies, groups and celebrities that have pledged to boycott Georgia if the proposed bills are passed.

In Duluth, a suburb outside of Atlanta, the City Council passed a resolution to support the city’s Immigrant Rights Coalition, in its efforts for equal rights. Activisits say the grassroots campaign sends a message that Duluth is no place for anti-immigrant sentiment.

The proposal was brought to the council with the support of 30 Duluth organizations and more than 1,000 people.

Coalition members disagree with the current state legislation, which they say criminalizes not only undocumented immigrants, but the Latino community. Advocates hope support from local elected officials in Duluth will send a clear message to state lawmakers and members of Congress. They want all lawmakers to know their communities will not tolerate racial profiling, discrimination or poor treatment of undocumented local immigrants.

March 30, 2011

3/30 – AJC- Senate panel passes immigration enforcement bill | ajc.com

Senate panel passes immigration enforcement bill  | ajc.com.

 

Georgia Politics 6:55 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Arizona-style legislation targeting illegal immigration in Georgia moved a step closer to becoming law Wednesday when it narrowly won the endorsement of a key Senate panel.

State troopers estimated a crowd of at least 5,000 filled the street in front of the state Capitol for a March 24 rally against proposed legislation targeting illegal immigrants.

Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com State troopers estimated a crowd of at least 5,000 filled the street in front of the state Capitol for a March 24 rally against proposed legislation targeting illegal immigrants.

By a vote of 5-4, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 87, but with some substantial revisions. Among other things, the committee deleted a provision that would empower Georgia residents to sue state or local government officials who fail to enforce state laws targeting illegal immigration.

Other revisions relate to requirements for certain businesses to confirm their newly hired employees are eligible to work in the U.S. The committee added a provision that says employers would not be eligible for certain state income tax breaks unless they use a federal work authorization program called E-Verify.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor for consideration. Georgia’s House passed a similar measure this month. Because the Senate version is different, it must get approval from both chambers before it could go to the governor’s desk and become law.

Like a tough new law enacted in Arizona last year, HB 87 would empower police to question certain suspects about their immigration status. It also would penalize certain people who harbor or transport illegal immigrants.

Critics of HB 87 accused the Senate committee of quickly acting on the legislation Wednesday without notifying the public in advance. The bill was not listed on the committee agenda that was posted on the state Legislature‘s website Wednesday.

Committee Chairman Bill Hamrick, R-Carrollton, issued a prepared statement Wednesday, saying his panel had “held numerous meetings on this issue, ensuring the familiarity of our members with these proposals.”

“Illegal immigration is a costly crisis that places an undue burden on Georgia families,” he said. “We have worked diligently for the past year to produce comprehensive, economical and enforceable reform of our immigration system.”

March 30, 2011

3/30 – ACLU – When It Comes to Immigration Detention and Enforcement, Georgia Sets a Terrible Example » Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union

When It Comes to Immigration Detention and Enforcement, Georgia Sets a Terrible Example » Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Posted by Azadeh N. Shahshahani, ACLU Foundation of Georgia at 12:00pm

When It Comes to Immigration Detention and Enforcement, Georgia Sets a Terrible Example

On Monday, the ACLU of Georgia submitted testimony to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on conditions at Stewart and Irwin County Detention Centers as well as racial profiling in Cobb and Gwinnett counties. IACHR has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and is authorized to examine allegations of human rights violations in all member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) including the United States.

The IACHR hearing came less than a week after the body released its report critical of the U.S. immigration enforcement and detention system. The report was based on visits to six detention centers in the U.S. and interviews with detainees and their family members as well as human rights defenders.

In its report, the IACHR voiced concern for the increasing reliance on detention of immigrants, where in fact detention should be the exception. In addition, the IACHR expressed its concern with “lack of a genuinely civil detention system with general conditions that are commensurate with human dignity and humane treatment” and the increasing privatization of the immigration detention system in the U.S., with little oversight provided for the contracting prison corporations.

In Georgia, we know firsthand that private immigration detention facilities are particularly ripe for abuse. The ACLU of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch have documented conditions at the largest corporate-run facility in the U.S., the Stewart Detention Center located in Lumpkin, Georgia. In April 2009, Georgia Detention Watch released a report on conditions at Stewart based on interviews with 16 detainees conducted in December 2008. As the report details, complaints at Stewart have ranged from inadequate medical care, arbitrary transfers, prolonged detention, and inadequate access to interpreters and counsel, to verbal and physical abuse.

In March 2009, the situation at this facility took a tragic turn when Roberto Martinez Medina, a 39-year-old immigrant held at Stewart, died of a treatable heart infection. To this day, many unanswered questions surround his death.

And if the past is any indication, we may always remain in the dark about why Mr. Medina perished in detention. The local ICE office has refused to meet with us to discuss the findings of the Stewart report or the death of Roberto Martinez Medina. It was only in November 2010, at instigation of the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, that ICE finally granted us a meeting. ICE assured us then that they will look into complaints about the conditions faced by detainees and take such issues very seriously. However, the local ICE office has since refused to convey to us a mechanism for timely and effective communication of complaints for fear of “clogging up their system.”

In its report, the IACHR also expressed concern about local-federal partnerships for enforcement of immigration laws, such as 287(g) and “Secure Communities,” which have led to racial profiling. The IACHR specifically called for termination of the failed 287(g) program.

The ACLU of Georgia submission to the IACHR included testimony of racial profiling and human rights abuses related to implementation of 287(g) in two Georgia counties, namely, Cobb and Gwinnett.

As documented in the ACLU of Georgia reports, many Latino community members in Gwinnett and Cobb counties have been stopped without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. The 287(g) program lacks the proper oversight mechanisms for the state or local levels, and allows for abuse of power by police officers who are not well trained.

What happened to “Gabriel,” detailed in the Cobb report, is illustrative. On May 19, 2009, on his way to completing a construction job, Gabriel’s car was stopped around a residential neighborhood close to Rocky Mountain Road, an area known to be targeted by Cobb police. Approaching a stop sign, Gabriel was extra careful to make a complete stop. But he was nonetheless pulled over by two Cobb County policemen on motorcycles. The officers did not tell him why they were stopping him, but later issued him a ticket for an improper stop.

Gabriel was asked to exit his car and the officers searched his car without seeking his consent. Gabriel was then arrested because he had no driver’s license.

Gabriel said: “The officer in the patrol car who arrested me was really nice. He took off my handcuffs to transport me to the jail. Upon arrival, a sheriff deputy at the jail asked the Cobb Police officer why he didn’t have me in handcuffs. The officer replied that he didn’t feel it was necessary. The two officers began to argue about this. I heard the sheriff deputy say really insulting things about me. The Cobb officer told the sheriff deputy to be quiet because I spoke English. The sheriff deputy then felt embarrassed and reacted by turning to me and telling me not to try anything because he’d ‘kick [my] teeth out.'”

Following his arrest, Gabriel’s wife paid his bond in the amount of $2,000 and he was released. When we talked to him, he was scheduled to be deported, but still living in Cobb. He avoided certain areas due to police harassment. Asked whether he would be reluctant to call the police in the future, he said, “Yes. I fear the police more than the criminals that might rob me.”

Gabriel is not alone. Many victims of racial profiling we spoke to in Cobb and Gwinnett also expressed fear of further contact with the police.

In addition to yesterday’s hearing, the ACLU has brought these issues to the attention of the U.S. government in several different human rights forums. In February, the ACLU’s Human Rights Program delivered a statement as part of the U.S. government’s Universal Periodic Review cataloging the numerous documented civil and human rights abuses associated with programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities.

The U.S. government and Georgia should heed recommendations of the IACHR and put an immediate stop to programs such as 287(g) that lead to racial profiling and abuse of power by the police. The government should also end the unnecessary and inhumane detention of immigrants and instead, as urged by the IACHR, rely on effective alternatives to detention.

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March 29, 2011

3/29 – AJC – Federal inaction on immigration lets issue fester | Jay Bookman

Federal inaction on immigration lets issue fester | Jay Bookman.

Georgia legislators sponsoring anti-immigrant bills say they have been forced to act by frustration with the federal government, which they believe has been unwilling to address illegal immigration issues.

Unfortunately, those legislators have a point, at least about the federal government’s failure to act. In fact, they have every right to be frustrated, even if the solutions they propose to fill the void left by federal inaction are unworkable.

Thanks to a combination of cowardice and political opportunism, Congress has indeed abdicated its duty to deal with tough immigration issues. The few steps it has taken in recent years — such as efforts to tighten border security — have been little more than useless if expensive window dressing.

Certainly, our border with Mexico needs to be tightened as much as possible. In practical terms, however, a boundary more than 2,000 miles long through mainly undeveloped areas can never be made secure against people sufficiently motivated to cross it. That’s a fact.

It’s also a fact that at least 10 million illegal immigrants already live here, and at this point, most have every intention of staying. According to the 2010 Census, roughly 850,000 Hispanics live in Georgia, and by some estimates as many as half may be here illegally.

So what do we do about them?

That’s the question that elected officials at the federal level refuse to address. That’s the vacuum that state legislators such as Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, and Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, claim to be trying to fill. And it is really the crux of the whole illegal immigration debate. With the economy in the tank and the flow of illegal immigrants greatly reduced, the real issue is how to deal with those already here.

There are two basic options: Either make those people go back where they came from, or they stay. Ramsey, Murphy and other conservative legislators prefer that they go back where they came from, and are trying to pass laws so punitive that they will leave on their own. (The option of tracking down, arresting and removing 10 million people, using law enforcement and the judicial system to sift the illegal from the legal, is understood by almost everybody to be hopeless.)

Personally, I have no faith that a policy of discouragement can work. Illegal immigrants have already proved themselves willing to endure great risk, sacrifice and hard work.

No matter how difficult we make things, no matter how inhumane or punitive we make our laws, most illegal immigrants are going to conclude that things are better for them and their children here than they would be back home. And if you think about it from their point of view, they’re right.

Changing that calculation would be very, very difficult.

The alternative, then, is to acknowledge the continuing presence of illegal immigrants while providing an avenue for them to leave the shadows and join the mainstream. That’s a step that only Congress can take — a step that it has so far refused to take, and that it shows no signs of taking in the foreseeable future.

Back in the ’80s, President Ronald Reagan supported legalization, explaining in a 1984 presidential debate that “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.” Thanks to his backing, Congress agreed.

A few years ago, President George W. Bush tried to convince members of his party to follow Reagan’s lead, but the effort failed. President Barack Obama has also expressed support for such a change, but with chances of passage almost non-existent, he has expended no political capital on its behalf.

As a result, we’re stuck with a choice between bad solutions and no solutions at all.

– Jay Bookman

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