3/9 – Amnesty International USA – Governor: Veto Georgia’s anti-immigration legislation

Governor: Veto Georgia’s anti-immigration legislation.

Over the last few years, states, counties and cities have been enacting immigration legislation, much of it criminal in nature, that is curbing the lives of citizens and immigrants alike and strikes at the core of fundamental human rights. These bills contain provisions such as new crimes, arbitrary and excessive status checks, and penalties for police that don’t enforce them entirely. All immigrants, particularly undocumented or “irregular” immigrants, are in danger of abuse and exploitation. Yet, legislators are increasingly evoking laws, policies and practices that don’t just punish immigrants,they reinforce stereotypes and make suspected criminals of us all.

Meanwhile, many politicians, newspapers and television programs talk about immigrants generally as criminals and encourage the same stereotypes to plant in the minds of citizens. Police raids on workplaces suspected of employing undocumented or irregular migrants, mass public crackdowns against suspected immigrants on the streets and racial profiling also contribute to an atmosphere in which foreigners are seen as threatening and immigrants are seen as a risk to society. And in this climate, legislation purportedly related to immigration contains the tools of a police state absent public outcry, because nobody realizes it.

On Thursday, March 3, the Georgia House passed HB 87. It will soon be heard by the Senate, and if it passes there, it will come before the Governor for signature.

If enacted into law, HB 87 would do the following:

  • Authorize police officers to ask for your “papers” during the course of a legal stop, including traffic stops, littering, jaywalking, and a variety of other commonplace activities.
    • What this means: In order to avoid arrest and detention, all individuals in Georgia will be essentially required to carry proof of legal residence in the US at all times. If you cannot prove legal residence on the spot, the officer will be able to arrest you if a faulty federal database hits on your name. People of color, especially, will be hit hardest by this law, as according to government reports, the association of race or ethnicity often contributes to routine police stops, particularly when an officer is engaged in an immigration stop. Furthermore, the more time local police spend on the enforcement of these status violations, the less time they spend on violent crime. This legislation may even make Georgia more dangerous because the police don’t have the time to investigate violent crimes. This is true in Maricopa, Arizona, infamous for its immigration enforcement, where the rate of violent crime has increased alongside it.
  • Authorize a police officer to be arbitrary and excessive in stopping and arresting anyone in Georgia if a federal database, well known for errors, hits on their name.
    • What this means: The random arrest of a person because she is suspected of being undocumented is arbitrary, punitive and in breach of international law.
  • Create criminal penalties if an individual encourages someone to come to Georgia, or transports or harbors an undocumented person inside Georgia while an officer suspects the violation of another crime;
    • What this means: In some states, good Samaritans are committing a violation of law when they leave water, blankets or food in areas where migrants congregate because it is considered littering. If they come upon a sick migrant in Georgia and take the person to their house to recover, the good Samaritan may also be in violation of this statute. – The enactment and use of criminal penalties on the basis of someone’s immigration status or race, ethnicity or class corrodes and undermines human rights protection, including the right to seek asylum and the protection of victims of smuggling and trafficking. Criminally charging those who assist a person in need compounds the rights violation.
  • Provide additional incentives for localities to enter into federal immigration enforcement programs such as 287(g) and Secure Communities.
    • What this means: It remains unclear as to whether states may opt out of Secure Communities and it is the federal government’s intention to have the program in every city by 2013. Therefore, this portion of the law may be redundant. Nonetheless, encouraging the expansion of 287(g) programs in the midst of ongoing and credible allegations and investigations of racial profiling, including by the US government, is irresponsible, reprehensible, and ignores the impact such programs have on the lives of people of color.
  • Allow any “legal resident” to bring a lawsuit against any Georgia official or agency to force them to implement the provisions of the bill.
    • What does this mean: Georgia officers and agencies have limited resources, just like every other company, organization or educational institution. Encouraging private citizens to file lawsuits will be extremely costly in a time of severe budget constraints. Creating this penalty will also incentivize racial profiling and discrimination because to avoid sanctions, police officers may assume all people of color are suspicious. And because the bill does not include any safeguards, oversight or accountability for illegal stops such as stops based on racial profiling, there will likely not be any repercussions for the officers. ICE does not care how a person comes into police custody, will not ask any questions and will not impede impunity. Incredibly, the bill actually provides immunity from charges of illegal stops for officers who acted in “good faith.”
  • Create a new identity fraud crime, which will likely be considered an aggravated felony under immigration law, subjecting the immigrant to mandatory and arbitrary detention and deportation.
    • What does this mean: Fraud crimes already exist in Georgia, so there is no reason for the legislature to enact a new crime of fraud. Without question, it is discriminatory and targeted at undocumented or “irregular” people.

      Discrimination based on a person’s race, ethnicity or immigration status is an assault on the very notion of human rights and undermines all human rights, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural. The enactment and use of criminal penalties on the basis of someone’s immigration status, race, ethnicity or class also corrodes and undermines human rights protection, including the right to seek asylum and the protection of victims of smuggling and trafficking.

  • Require private employers to use the flawed E-Verify database and establish civil sanctions in cases of non-compliance.
    • What does this mean: There are countless cases of E-Verify and other identification systems sweeping in dozens of people incorrectly and subjecting both them and their employers to possible sanctions and long, complex procedures to correct the errors. AI is concerned that programs such as these are in violation of a person’s right to privacy and should not be pursued. They also tighten the circle of police power surrounding Georgians, their businesses and employees.

Suggested talking points against anti-immigration bill HB 87:

  • I urge you to commit to veto HB 87 because it permits police officers to arrest a person without criminal chargeand transport the person to an immigration jail. The legislation does not provide any rights to the arrested person, and since it’s a criminal procedure wrapped up as a civil arrest, the person is not afforded the rights of someone arrested for a crime.
  • I urge you to veto HB 87 because it is discriminatory, mean-spirited, unnecessary and undermines the confidence and trust of communities in police officers directly associated with immigration enforcement. Our police departments are already under-resourced, we do not need to stretch them even farther by asking them to perform immigration functions. The Immigration Policy Center researched the incidence of violent crime in Arizona and found that it is decreasing in every county EXCEPT the infamous Maricopa County where it is increasing.
  • Veto HB 87 because it is fundamentally flawed and creates a police state on the sly. It does not address the root causes that push people to immigrate without permission: lack of economic opportunity, war and poverty that people face in countries of origin; the lack of legal immigration channels open to immigrants and the very real demand for cheap, flexible labor in many economies – including Georgia. People don’t undergo life threatening journeys because they want to commit a violation of law.

Take Action Now!


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