Saturday, July 02, 2011

Thousands Rally in Atlanta Against Racist Immigration Law

Thousands rally against immigration law

By Christian Boone
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Eighteen-year-old Myra Cerecero said she wakes up every morning praying her parents made it home safely.

"I'm living in a constant state of fear they'll be picked up," said the daughter of illegal immigrants. The American-born Loganville teen was among roughly 10,000 to 15,000 people, according to Capitol police, who jammed the streets of downtown Atlanta Saturday morning to voice their opposition to House Bill 87, Georgia's crackdown on illegal immigrants.

The recently signed bill penalizes those who use false identification to secure jobs as well as government officials who fail to enforce the state's immigration laws.

Though the law went into effect Friday, protest organizers say the fight to repeal HB 87 is far from over.

"This is the beginning of the end, not the end," said Teodoro Maus, president of the Georgia Latino Alliance on Human Rights (GLAHR).

Protesters invoked President Barack Obama's name repeatedly as they marched past the state Capitol, signifying their support of the federal DREAM Act, which would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal immigrants, such as high school graduates, who came to this country as minors.

"We need comprehensive immigration reform," said Helen Kim Ho, executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, one of 62 organizations that participated in Saturday's march. "Change has to come from the federal level."

Mableton resident Alma Olmedo said she's not optimistic about a federal solution.

"Obviously the federal government is not doing anything for us so we'll have to do it for ourselves," said the 22-year-old, holding a sign declaring "I will not live in the shadows."

Olmedo, who came to the U.S. when she was 5 years old, said she fears the consequences of HB 87.

"I could end up being sent back to a place (Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco, where Olmedo was born) I don't remember to live among people I don't know," she said as marchers chanted "Si, se puede," Spanish for Obama's 2008 campaign slogan, "Yes we can."

The message Saturday was about more than politics, according to Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the GLAHR.

"We believe they have the right to stay here," she said. "Our kids have grown up here. We work here. This is our country also."

HB 87's opponents welcomed one small victory this week, as a federal judge blocked some contested parts of the bill, including a provision that empowered local and state police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects and another that punished those who harbor illegal immigrants.

Georgia is one of several states to adopt tough immigration legislation patterned after the groundbreaking law enacted in Arizona last year.

D.A. King, president of The Dustin Inman Society, which he described as "pro-enforcement on American immigration and employment laws," said the rally participants are on the opposite side of the majority of U.S. opinion.

"Most Americans realize that we take in more legal immigrants than any nation on the planet -- more than 1 million a year," King said. "Most Americans watching this rally understand that these people's message is one of anti-enforcement, open borders and separatism."

King said HB 87 "is doing exactly what it was intended to do and I, along with a majority of Georgians who oppose illegal immigration, are very happy -- elated -- to watch illegal immigrants migrate out of Georgia."

King said "we will really know we have an effective immigration law when we make ours closer to what they have in Mexico," which he said is far more stringent.

-- Staff writer Joel Provano contributed to this article.

Atlanta LGBT activists speak out against HB 87 for Saturday's 'March for Justice'

by Dyana Bagby
July 02, 2011 10:45

A queer contingent participated in Saturday's March for Justice to protest Georgia's immigration law that went into effect July 1.

Before the march, several members of Atlanta's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities released statements saying why the oppose the law, HB 87 and titled the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011."

Paulina Hernandez, co-director, Southerners on New Ground: "The LGBTQ community has a lot to risk with the passage of HB-87 and we are outraged that the governor has chosen to ignore all the community outcry from citizens, legal residents and immigrant communities alike, his arrogance will mark a political moment we will not forget," she said.

Paris Hatcher, executive director, SPARK! Reproductive Justice NOW: "SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW stands in solidarity with SONG and other people of color and LGBTQ led organizations in the South for the July 2 Mass Mobilization. We share and echo the call for renewed commitment for justice for immigrants and other marginalized communities who are facing increased surveillance and profiling with the passage of HB87," she said. "As a community centered organization led by the experiences of women of color and LGBTQ people, we understand a temporary injunction is not enough, and only a full repeal of HB87 can mitigate the devastating impact of this racist bill on the lives, families, and communities of our people," she added.

Mary Anne Adams, board member and founder of ZAMI NOBLA, a national organization of black lesbians on aging: "This bill uses racial profiling as a tool of Georgia to police, detain, arrest and deport Latino immigrants. Moreover, it places all people of color in the cross-hairs of Police and ICE collaboration. As a black lesbian organization we are concerned that our base, our communities and our allies will be affected with its passing and implementation. We urge our comrades to build unity across communities that experience homophobia, sexism and racism …," she said.

Craig Washington, prevention programs manager at AID Atlanta: "As a black gay man who has been HIV positive for most of my life, I embody identities deemed as taboo, different, queer, those whose bodies are demonized, criminalized and imprisoned. I do not need to face the same pitfalls as an immigrant to recognize where our paths cross," he said. "Let our chants resound to claim freedom for all, to celebrate the contributions of immigrants throughout Georgia and the nation, to declare that we share the struggle, and that only when we are all free, can we proclaim the victory."

Stephanie Guilloud and Emery Wright, co-directors, Project South: Today, Project South marches with families who have been targeted and profiled by racist legislation whether it’s Islamaphobia, the constant police presence in black communities, or the intimidation and fear tactics used against immigrants. We call on teachers, medical practitioners, faith leaders, students, and community leaders to choose freedom and decide not to comply with these laws," they said.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash put a temporary injunction on some of the more controversial portions of the law as a lawsuit alleging the law is unconstitutional goes through the court system.

Thrash blocked the part of the law that allows police to investigate immigration status of suspects with no identification and who are suspected of committing a state or federal crime. The judge also blocked implementation of the portion of the law that punishes people who knowingly assist or harbor an illegal immigrant.

HB 87 was sponsored by state Rep. Matt Ramsey, (R-Peachtree City). When the bill was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal into law on May 13, Ramsey issued this statement:

“HB 87 is a comprehensive and necessary effort to enforce the rule of law and protect the taxpayers of Georgia from being forced to subsidize the presence of nearly 500,000 illegal aliens in our state. Current economic conditions have made it painfully obvious that the state of Georgia literally cannot afford to continue this broken system.

“This is not simply an immigration issue, but also a problem that burdens our state’s schools, healthcare system and law enforcement community. Georgia’s taxpayers have demanded action to enforce the rule of law and, where the federal government has failed, their state government has listened and delivered.”

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