4/29 – AJC – Atlanta tourism boosters oppose immigration law | ajc.com

Atlanta tourism boosters oppose immigration law  | ajc.com.

Metro Atlanta / State News 9:11 a.m. Friday, April 29, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau went on record Friday morning against Georgia’s stringent new immigration enforcement legislation over concerns that it could hurt the region’s $10 billion tourism industry.

By a unanimous vote, the bureau’s executive committee passed a resolution saying House Bill 87 is “unwelcoming” and could “tarnish Atlanta’s reputation as one of America’s most welcoming cities.”

“The loss of potential revenues associated with conventions and tourism would have an adverse effect on Atlanta’s economy and the businesses and employees directly and indirectly associated with Atlanta’s hospitality industry,” the resolution says.

Atlanta’s convention and tourism boosters are hoping Georgia won’t suffer like Arizona, which lost dozens of conventions amid economic boycotts after that state enacted similar legislation last year. The leisure and hospitality industry ranks as the fourth largest employer in the Atlanta region with about 223,000 jobs, according to the bureau.

The bureau is planning to send a copy of its resolution to Gov. Nathan Deal. A spokeswoman for Deal confirmed this week that the Republican governor pans to sign HB 87 some time during the first two weeks of May.

William Pate, the bureau’s president, told the committee before its vote Friday that some of the bureau’s convention customers have called to inquire about the legislation, but none have canceled their events.

“There is obviously a lot of concern about the potential impact this legislation could have on our industry because of the situation in Arizona,” Pate told the committee. “But what I want you all to be very clear about is we are not going to rollover. We are going to be out there very aggressively.

“One of the things that Atlanta is so blessed with is that we have great relationships with our customers. And we have many business and civic leaders who sit on boards of these organizations who have said they would help us as we reach out to these customers.”

Like Arizona’s law, Georgia’s HB 87 would empower local and state police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. Georgia’s legislation would also require many businesses to use a federal work authorization program called E-Verify to confirm their newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. And it would punish people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants or use fake identification to get jobs here.

The sponsor of HB 87 — Republican Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City — had no immediate comment on the bureau’s resolution.

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