Photo: Georgia state capitol
The battle over how Georgia treats its immigrant communities heated up today when 250 protesters gathered in a loud, high spirited rally to denounce the House of Representatives yes vote on the controversial Arizona style HB 87 and call on the Governor to commit to a veto.
“Beginning in 1757 and until the end of the civil war slave patrols required slaves to produce a pass, which stated their owner’s name as well as where and when they were allowed to be away from the plantation and for how long,” said Everette Thompson, Southern Regional Director of Amnesty International USA. “It was wrong then and it is wrong now – to demand some people have to carry papers based on nothing more than the color of their skin.”
The crowd cheered loudly when told that Representative Al Williams was reading the text from an old slave pass on the floor of the house in opposition to HB 87.
“This bill is an embarrassment to the people of Georgia. While everyday Georgians struggle to keep their homes and jobs, the legislature spends its time scapegoating hard working immigrants who contribute to Georgia’s economy and culture. We can’t afford to be passing racially biased laws that embarrass us in the eyes of the country and the world.,” said Jerry Gonzalez, director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
The protestors held signs that read “Representative Ramsey, show us YOUR papers,” and “We won’t go back!” in reference to what they say was the last time Georgia had laws that mandated certain people carry and show papers when asked by law officials – slavery times.
As the floor vote was announced, a group of those in opposition to HB 87 delivered a poster-size letter addressed to Governor Deal, asking for his commitment to veto any job destroying, racial profiling law that may land on his desk this year. For a moment it seemed security wouldn’t let the group in, but to the loud chants of “let them in!” from the crowd, they were ultimately able to deliver the letter.
Opposition to the bill has come from many directions. Labor unions have also joined the anti-HB 87 efforts, noting that the bill’s supporters are not looking for solutions to budget deficits and the need for jobs. Ben Speight of the Teamsters Union said “When I hear people blaming immigrants for the fact that there are no jobs, that the economy is still terrible, I want to ask: did an immigrant move your plant oversees? Or cut your healthcare? Or crash the financial system? Or foreclose on your house? Labor in Georgia stands with all workers who are trying to provide for their families.”
The issue even has Republicans fired up. Attorney Charles Kuck denounced the bill stating that even this new version of HB 87 “causes amazing hardship to private employers through unrealistic E-Verify requirements, violates several provisions of the US Constitution, including the Equal Protection Clause, creates a problem for folks offering assistance to domestic violence victims, subverts voter intent, creates a lawsuit bonanza for lawyers against city and county governments, and, frankly, does not do anything to enforce the laws on illegal immigration to the United States.”
The Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Restaurant Association, Government Contractors Association, Mexican American Business Chamber, and other business groups are also opposed to HB87.
Representatives Simone Bell and Karla Drenner also came out to address the crowd after the vote and to encourage those in opposition to keep fighting.
Speakers at the Event
Reverend Gregory Williams, Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment
Everette Thompson, Amnesty International USA
Bill Nigut, Anti-Defamation League
Ben Speight, Teamsters local 728
Jerry Gonzalez, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials
Eva Cardenas, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
Tricia Sung, OCA-Georgia
Teodoro Maus, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
Xochitl Bervera, Georgia Immigrant Refugee Rights Coalition