Archive for May 3rd, 2011

May 3, 2011

5/3 – ajc.com – Colotl allowed to remain in U.S. for another year | ajc.com

Colotl allowed to remain in U.S. for another year  | ajc.com

Georgia Politics 6:58 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As Jessica Colotl sat in a classroom taking a final exam at Kennesaw State University Tuesday, federal immigration officials sent word she can remain in the country for another year.

Colotl, an illegal immigrant brought to this country as a child, was nearly deported to Mexico last spring following an arrest for a traffic violation on campus, but the federal government granted her a yearlong deferment so she could complete a degree in political science.

That reprieve was set to expire Thursday.

Colotl is among several illegal immigrant college students across the country who received temporary reprieves in recent weeks, according to published reports. Students living in Connecticut, Florida and Texas saw their deportations halted following a federal review of their cases. Federal immigration officials didn’t have statistics on how many deferments occurred recently and wouldn’t say if they are part of a conscious effort.

But the decisions follow a political push to suspend deportation of these students and pushback from some groups, who argue students like Colotl occupy space in America’s colleges that should go to legal citizens. .

On Monday, as Colotl prepared to take her final exams, she said she considers herself an American.

“I think I deserve the right to be recognized as an American on paper because I believe in the American system and I believe in American values,” Colotl said. “I am no different than any other American.”

On Friday President Obama renewed his support for the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants like Colotl brought to this country as children. They would have to meet several criteria, including completing at least two years of college.

The bill has been introduced in multiple forms over the past decade, but has yet to pass. While it has bi-partisan support, some Republicans blocked it last year.

Supporters say these children have the potential to contribute to this country and should not be punished for their parents’ mistakes. Critics say the bill provides amnesty to those who broke the law and that it could increase illegal immigration.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said last month deporting illegal immigrant students is not a high priority for the agency responsible for protecting the nation’s borders.

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Meanwhile states, including Georgia, are passing their own laws. Georgia lawmakers debated a bill to ban illegal immigrants from all public colleges but it did not pass.

That bill will be re-introduced, said Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville. He doubted the DREAM Act would become a reality.

“The DREAM is literally a dream and it’s time for the federal government to follow the law,” Balfour said. “I’m happy she’s finally filing paperwork and following legal channels now, but let’s not forget that the law is the law.”

The deferment means Colotl can walk at graduation May 11. She picked up her cap and  gown, but hasn’t allowed herself to try it on yet.

She wants to remain in Georgia permanently. She plans to work at a law firm next year and then go to law school. Her deferment, which came as a surprise to her attorney Charles Kuck, included a provision that allows her to work, he said. She wants to be an immigration attorney.

Colotl scheduled three finals Tuesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment. She rushed to finish her exams before Thursday, the day her deferment was originally set to expire.

Colotl was 11 when her parents brought her here. Over the past year, the 22-year-old has been in and out of courtrooms and spent 37 days in a detention center.

“It’s been a a nightmare and I can’t wait until it’s over,” she said. “I’m a firm believer everything happens for a reason so I’m stuck in this situation and at the end of the day I’m going to see why it really happened to me.”

Georgia has long debated illegal immigration and higher education, but Colotl’s arrest re-ignited the issue.

There was public outcry that KSU President Daniel Papp spoke to federal officials on her behalf and that the college wrongly charged her in-state tuition. At that time, illegal immigrants were allowed to attend public colleges but were required to pay the higher out-of-state tuition rates.

The regents have since tweaked the policy and illegal immigrants can’t attend any college that turns away academically qualified students. This applies to: University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College & State University. Illegal immigrants may attend other colleges, including KSU, provided they pay out-of-state tuition.

Colotl’s legal troubles aren’t over. Kuck said they will need to request another extension next year and was unsure if she would receive a third one.

“If I’m denied the opportunity to remain in the United States I will still have my education,” Colotl said. “No one will be able to take it away from me because that is something I earned myself.”

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May 3, 2011

5/3 – ajc.com – Human rights group boycotts Georgia over immigration measure | ajc.com

Human rights group boycotts Georgia over immigration measure  | ajc.com.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A human rights organization has canceled plans to hold its biannual conference in Atlanta this year amid calls to boycott Georgia because of a tough immigration enforcement bill that the state Legislature approved last month.

The U.S. Human Rights Network, a nonprofit organization based in Atlanta, had not booked a location yet for its three-day event but was expecting more than 600 people from across the country to attend the meeting in December, said a spokeswoman for the organization.

The meeting will be relocated to another state because of Georgia’s House Bill 87, the spokeswoman said. A new location has not yet been selected. The network, meanwhile, did not have an estimate for the economic impact its conference would have had for the Atlanta area.

Critics of HB 87 are hoping the network’s decision will be the first of many boycotts to be announced as they seek to pressure Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill. A spokeswoman for Deal recently confirmed the Republican governor plans to sign HB 87 before the end of next week.

“HB 87 is another sad apartheid initiative spreading throughout the country to create fear and exploit people in compromised positions,” said Ajamu Baraka, the U.S. Human Rights Network’s executive director. “Reactionary forces in this country are attempting to turn the clock backward to the 18th century by creating these laws.”

Supporters of the legislation say illegal immigrants are burdening Georgia’s schools, hospitals and jails. And they point to a recent Pew Hispanic Center estimate that says Georgia is home to more illegal immigrants than Arizona, with 425,000 living here.

Like a law Arizona enacted last year, Georgia’s measure would empower police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. And it would punish those who transport or harbor illegal immigrants or use fake identification to get jobs here.

The Human Rights Network, which says on its website that its purpose is to build a human rights movement in the United States, plans to continue its boycott of Georgia until HB 87 is scrapped. Among the network’s founding members are the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Last week, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau went on record opposing HB 87 over concerns that it could hurt the region’s $10 billion tourism industry. The bureau’s executive committee unanimously passed a resolution saying the measure is “unwelcoming” and could “tarnish Atlanta’s reputation as one of America’s most welcoming cities.”

Atlanta’s convention and tourism boosters are hoping Georgia won’t suffer like Arizona, which lost dozens of conventions after that state enacted similar legislation last year. A spokeswoman for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau said Tuesday that no Atlanta conventions have been canceled because of HB 87.

A spokesman for Deal issued a statement last week in response to the bureau’s resolution.

“Illegal immigration costs Georgia taxpayers hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, each year at the city, county and state levels,” said Brian Robinson, Deal’s spokesman. “Georgia will treat everyone in our state with respect, and we want to encourage immigrants who settle in Georgia to go through the proper legal channels. Frankly, Georgia is leading the way by requiring that employers follow existing federal law. Look for other states — who face the same challenges and costs — to follow Georgia’s lead.”

May 3, 2011

5/2 – Workers World – Boycott planned if Georgia guv signs anti-immigrant bill

Boycott planned if Georgia guv signs anti-immigrant bill.

Published Apr 28, 2011 9:39 PM

Nine days after the Georgia Legislature passed HB 87, an Arizona copycat law that authorizes local and state police to require proof of citizenship or legal residency from anyone suspected of being undocumented, the governor still had not signed it into law.

This bill says that people who don’t provide sufficient papers will be arrested and turned over to federal agents. The law requires all businesses with more than 10 employees to run the identity of new hires through the E-Verify system, a government database that has been plagued with errors. Additionally, in certain circumstances, persons transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants can also be arrested and face considerable fines and jail time.

Gov. Nathan Deal has said several times that he intends to sign the measure into law. He has until late May to either veto, sign or do nothing. However, only a veto will prevent it from becoming law on May 24.

Grassroots opposition to this and other anti-immigrant bills generated a number of press conferences, mass lobbying days, a weekday rally of more than 8,000 in front of the Capitol here, solidarity protests around the state, the delivery of tens of thousands of petitions, a flood of phone calls, and a candlelight vigil the last night of the Legislature’s session, when with its backers using underhanded tactics, the bill was passed on April 14.

The Atlanta City Council has endorsed a resolution calling on the governor to veto the bill. Similarly, other local governments, elected officials, major businesses and multinational corporations, convention and tourist associations, the Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta, other religious leaders, lawyers, agricultural groups, restaurant owners and landscapers, among others, have issued public statements or had meetings with the governor detailing their opposition to the measure. They all cite the economic, political and public relations damage that will be caused by a promised boycott and legal action that would follow HB 87’s implementation.

Immigrant, civil rights and civil liberties, student, labor, social justice, faith-based and other groups have intensified their demand on the governor to veto the bill, charging that it legalizes racial profiling and is unconstitutional. While there is fear and uncertainty among the many immigrant groups that call Georgia home, there is an undeniable spirit of resistance. Undocumented students in Atlanta faced arrest on April 7 to show that they were no longer willing to live in the shadows but were determined to fight openly for their human rights. Many workers and their families have declared “We are here — and we are not leaving!”

The petition and phone call campaign to the governor continues. A more than 55-mile Pilgrimage for Immigrants took place during Easter week and garnered a great deal of press. A major rally will take place on May 1 in front of the Capitol.

The beginning stages of a boycott of Georgia conventions, tourism and entertainment are already in progress. National organizations that took the lead in developing the successful boycott of Arizona last year are engaged in the launch of the Georgia campaign. Labor organizations and lesbian, gay, bi and transgender groups are prominent.

Some estimates of Arizona’s economic losses range as high as $150 million in one year. Georgia’s high-profile tourism and convention business expects to be even more vulnerable to charges of racism and zenophobia.

For more information, go to http://www.somosgeorgia.org

May 3, 2011

5/2 – Time Herald – Sheriff working to identify illegals – The Times-Herald

Sheriff working to identify illegals – The Times-Herald.

Published Monday, May 02, 2011 in Local

By Elizabeth Melville

The Times-Herald

The conversation about how to get a handle on illegal immigration is continuing on the local, state and federal levels.

Currently, Georgia House Bill 87 — geared at cracking down on illegal immigration in the state — is awaiting Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature.

“The legislation would enhance our ability to ask more questions of people about their legal status,” said Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager. “We want our community to know that we’re not just sitting around waiting for HB 87 to be signed, we’re already in the process of looking at other resources to help us identify people who are in the country illegally to speed up the process.”

Radiation Oncology

Yeager has long been vocal about his department’s objective to remove illegal immigrants from Coweta County, though enforcement has, in the past, not been a consistent possibility, he says.

Last year, however, the sheriff’s office applied to participate in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities program — ICE’s comprehensive strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of aliens convicted of a crime from the United States. The program uses biometrics — computerized fingerprinting — to identify aliens, both lawfully and unlawfully present in the country, who are booked into local law enforcement’s custody for a crime.

The sheriff’s office went online with the program March 15. Coweta, Chatham, Glenn, Fayette and Troup counties are the most recent in Georgia to participate in Secure Communities, according to Sheriff Yeager. These counties are using ICE’s capabilities in 21 Georgia jurisdictions.

“The jail clerk has daily contact with ICE,” said Yeager. “Since we came online, a dozen or more people have been picked up by ICE. In 12 months’ time, that will be a substantial move. This program has really enhanced our ability to move illegals and attract the attention of the feds.”

Once ICE is notified, agents evaluate each case to determine the individual’s immigration status and to take appropriate enforcement action. ICE will respond with a priority placed on aliens convicted of the most serious crimes first — such as those with convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape and kidnapping.

“I think that this program is very beneficial,” said Yeager. “We’re heading in a direction that seems to be helping. Before, we were meeting one shut door after another with contacting federal agencies. This has opened some of those doors. We’re building a good working relationship with this program in place.

“Now we’ll be able to better look at everybody who walks through our doors,” he continued. “We’re looking at anyone who’s not a U.S. citizen — not just Hispanics.”

Yeager is also still pushing for Coweta County’s enrollment in the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 287(g) program, which permits designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement under the supervision of a federal agent assigned to the community.

Thus far, however, there have been no federal appropriations for the program. Yeager says that, for now, Secure Communities is the best alternative.

May 3, 2011

5/1 – Anderson Independent Mail/AP – About 1,000 rally to protest Georgia immigration bill » Anderson Independent Mail Mobile

About 1,000 rally to protest Georgia immigration bill

— Jose-David and Lourdes Resendiz have lived in Georgia for 14 years, but with the governor likely to sign a bill passed by the Legislature that aims to crack down on illegal immigration, they’re packing up their things and preparing to leave.

They were among a crowd at a May Day rally Sunday at the Georgia Capitol Sunday that police estimated at about 1,000. Chanting in Spanish and English, waving signs and cheering heartily for each speaker, they urged Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill that contains some provisions similar to a tough law enacted last year in Arizona.

Speakers encouraged illegal immigrant workers not to leave the state but instead to dig in, organize and mobilize.

“In the labor movement we have a saying ‘Don’t Mourn — Organize!’ We may want to mourn HB87, but let us instead organize like never before,” said Ben Speight, organizer director of the Teamsters Local 728

The bill passed by state lawmakers last month would authorize law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of certain suspects and to detain them if they are in the country illegally. It would penalize people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants and makes it a felony to present false documents or information when applying for a job. It also requires many businesses to verify the immigration status of new hires using an online federal database.

Deal, who has long been a supporter of strict immigration measures, has said he plans to sign the legislation into law.

The bill has drawn criticism from civil liberties and immigrant rights groups, who say it will encourage racial profiling. Many in the business, agriculture, service and tourism and convention sectors have also expressed concern, saying it could drive away their workforce and make Georgia seem unwelcoming.

Supporters of the bill say it’s necessary to curb illegal immigration, which they say drains the state’s resources and contributes to high rates of unemployment.

“Gov. Deal and the Legislature found a workable solution that enforces the rule of law and protects Georgia taxpayers while upholding individuals’ constitutional rights,” Deal spokesman Brian Robinson wrote in an email Friday. “Illegal immigration costs Georgia taxpayers hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, each year at the city, county and state levels.”

Irving Penso, a 64-year-old Atlanta native who teaches English as a second language, said he hopes the governor will “do the right thing” and veto the bill.

“The reputation of the state is at stake, this would be a huge step backward,” he said. “When one group is oppressed it reflects badly on all of us.”

Angel Salome, a 17-year-old high school junior, was brought to the United States as a 2-month-old infant strapped to his mother’s back as she swam across the Rio Grande. He spoke at the rally and said he’d like his friends to speak out as well. His favorite subject in school is U.S. history, and he plans to go to college and law school with dreams of becoming an immigration lawyer.

“I’m going to get that college degree and hopefully be able to provide some financial stability for my mother so she never has to scrub another toilet or tub again,” he said after addressing the crowd.

In a nod to May Day’s roots as a workers’ day, Charlie Flemming, of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, part of the AFL-CIO, told the protesters that organized labor stands behind them.

“These state immigration laws unjustly target a segment of our society. It’s not only unconstitutional, it’s just unfair,” he said. “I think it’s important for us as a labor movement to embrace our immigrant community. We’re really supportive of pushing real, national immigration reform.”

Resendiz, 40, who works installing insulation, said his wife is packing things up, preparing to leave their home in Buford. He’s thinking of heading to Utah. His 42-year-old wife, who works in a Chinese restaurant, said she plans to return to Mexico until he has a chance to assess the situation in Utah, and then she might join him there.

“We’re illegal, but we came to this country for a better life,” Jose-David Resendiz said in Spanish. “We aren’t crooks, we aren’t violent. We pay taxes and we spend money here. We just want to work to have a better life.

Utah’s governor recently signed an immigration package that includes an enforcement law reminiscent of Arizona’s and would also create a state guest worker program. The Utah law isn’t set to enter into effect until 2013 because state officials need time to seek a federal waiver — for which a process doesn’t currently exist — to give the state the right to issue temporary work permits and other actions generally reserved for the federal government.

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