Most Anti-Immigration Legislation Fails in Georgia, as ICE Raids spark Protest
(APN) ATLANTA — On Thursday, March 24, 2016, Sine Die day, over one hundred Latinos and supporters gathered in Liberty Plaza to speak out against rampant anti-immigrant legislation, and what they describe as shameful and illegal raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
There were numerous anti-immigration bills this Session, more than Atlanta Progressive News was able to cover in depth during the Session. All the anti-immigrant legislation under the Gold Dome failed, however, with one exception: SB 269.
SB 269, the Sanctuary Cities bill, passed both the House and Senate. It did not make any changes in current law, except requiring Georgia cities to annually affirm that they follow current Georgia immigration law.
There are no Sanctuary Cities in Georgia, but this new version can be used to accuse cities of being immigrant-friendly.
Sponsored by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), it passed the Senate on February 26, 2016, in a vote of 49 to two; and passed the House on March 15, 2016, in a vote of 118 to 52.
SB 6, the Driver’s License Bill, that aimed to stigmatize Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and immigrant survivors of crime.
It was sponsored by State Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) and passed the Senate on February 29, 2016, by a vote of 37 to seventeen. It stalled in the House and died on Sine Die Day.
SR 675, the English-only Constitutional Amendment, sponsored by Sen. McKoon passed the Senate on February 29, 2016, in a vote of 39 to fourteen. It failed by a vote in a House Judiciary sub-committee.
HB 781, a bill that originally required proof of citizenship to serve on local appointed boards and commissions, passed by substitute in the House in a vote of 93 to fifty. It stalled out in a Senate committee.
The bill’s author, State Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), attached it to SB 85, but it also died at Sine Die.
At the rally, the crowd chanted: “No to Hate Speech and “Not One More Deportation.” They were referring to recent raids by ICE targeting Central American women and children asylum seekers in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas.
Asylum-seekers are often fleeing from persecution, rape, torture, and murder in their home countries.
Many elected officials and community leaders find it troubling these traumatized families are being deported back to those same conditions from which they fled.
Many participants at Liberty Plaza are worried about the atmosphere of racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia the United States seems to be currently experiencing, especially coming from Republican candidates for President of the U.S., like Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who are scapegoating Hispanics in order to get political votes.
“The actions by our elected officials are not separate from hate crimes targeting our communities,” Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director at Project South, said. Shahshahani recently transitioned over to Project South after working at the Georgia office of the American Civil Liberties Union for several years.
The federal government has engaged in needlessly aggressive and potentially unconstitutional acts against immigrants, by conducted home raids that have targeted women and children from Central America, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR).
The Atlanta raids raise Constitutional concerns because they appear to have been conducted without warrants and some ICE agents reportedly lied to get into homes without a search warrant.
ICE agents denied women access to lawyers, and instructed women to sign legal documents they did not understand, the report says.
Many of the women picked up by ICE had been granted permission by ICE to remain in the U.S.
Immigrant children have been held more than twenty days in detention, which is prohibited under a settlement agreement in Flores v. Johnson.
“It is unconscionable that our legislature and representatives stand by and condone actions that have terrorized immigrant communities and violated the constitution,” Eunice Cho, an attorney with SPLC, said to the crowd.
Immigrants in deportation proceedings are not provided with court-appointed lawyers, and often rely on non-profit organizations and volunteer attorneys. Few have the resources to hire an attorney.
“Asylum-seekers as young as two or three, who are not provided with counsel in court proceedings and are made to fend on their own,” Shahshahani described.
“My tears are speaking for all those mothers that are crying because they are separated from their children. I want to tell everyone to unite and not tolerate any more hate speech. They are using our community as a political platform,” Adelina Nicholls, Executive Director of GLAHR, said.
U.S. interventions, invasions, and occupations throughout Central America and the Middle East have destabilized many countries. These unnecessary actions have created a terrible humanitarian crisis displacing millions of people, Barbara Joye, a member of the Metro Atlanta chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, told APN.
Other factors in migration are the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the so-called war on drugs, and gang violence; all of these have forced many families to leave their countries.
Altogether, the anti-immigrant legislation and unconstitutional raids are drawing an ugly picture of Georgia as one of the most hateful states in the nation.
While some politicians and citizens fear shifting demographics in the U.S., a recent gallup poll shows that sixty five percent of U.S. residents support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.