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