Georgia Coalition Joins Call for Immigration Reform

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(APN) ATLANTA — A coalition of local labor, business, and immigrant community leaders held a press conference Monday, June 01, 2009, on the steps of the State Capitol to launch the Georgia component of the national Reform Immigration for America campaign.

The campaign outlines 11 different principles of comprehensive immigration reform the coalition would like the 111th US Congress and the Obama Administration to take into consideration over the coming months.

“Our immigration system in this country, as it currently exists, no longer works,” Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) said. “We as a people and as a nation can and must do better.”

The campaign argues any immigration reform must be comprehensive, promote economic opportunity, contain long-term solutions, and take a rational and humane approach to undocumented workers.

“We blame immigrants for everything yet everyday we exploit their labor,” State Rep. Pedro Marin (D-Duluth) said. “This is not the way civil society should treat [immigrants].”

Other campaign principles call for protection for U.S. and immigrant workers, sufficient visas to close unlawful migration channels, and a sensible enforcement strategy that enhances the nation’s security and safety.

Numerous speakers stressed how important immigration reform is for the economy and national security.

“Immigration reform is necessary to strengthening our economy because it would allow businesses to plan better for the future and allow businesses to be more competitive in the global marketplace,” Duran Dodson of the Atlanta chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) said.

“Our current immigration system makes little sense for American’s security,” Blanca Rojas of the Georgia Rural Urban Summit said.

Rojas said the United States should establish a strategic border enforcement policy that reflects US values. But, she noted, the government should strive to remove violent individuals, prosecute employers who exploit vulnerable workers, and eliminate drug smuggling and trafficking operations.

“It will separate the hard workers trying to fulfill their dream from these that wish to cause us harm,” Rojas said.

The campaign also calls for protecting fundamental rights for all, promoting immigration integration, and keeping families in the US together.

Similar launches took place on June 01, 2009, in more than 30 cities across the United States. A three-day national summit began on Wednesday, June 03, in Washington, DC.

The Obama Administration has taken some small steps for immigration reform. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contains $400 million to strengthen security and infrastructure for ports of entry on the Southwest border.

The Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act removes barriers preventing legal immigrant children from being covered.

The proposed 2010 budget contains numerous initiatives, including $70 million to hire 350 new agents and investigators in the Homeland Security Department to work with counterparts in Mexico on stemming the flow of drugs and guns across the border; an additional $200 million for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division to crack down on illegal immigrants; $50 million for the Border Patrol to hire more border and customs officers; $112 million to supplement the E-Verify program used by employers to check the immigration status of workers; and eliminating the $400 million State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses local jurisdictions for jailing illegal immigrants.

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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