Me: “Hey! Now that you’ve graduated, what school are you going to? I heard you got accepted to some good schools.”
Undocumented friend #1: “Well…. I don’t think I’ll be attending any school.
Me: “What?! Are you crazy?! Don’t be a bum!”
Undocumented friend #1: “You know I would if I could, but I don’t have papers.. so I don’t think I would be allowed to go.
Undocumented friend #2: “Man, I’m so broke nowadays!”
Me: “Don’t you have a job? What’re you complaining about?”
Undocumented friend#2: “Nope, I had to quit. Haven’t you heard? Things are not safe for us anymore.”
Unfortunately, these were all real conversations that I had with some friends over the past couple of months. I am from Atlanta, Georgia. It is a state that has about 425,000 undocumented students and immigrants (Georgia being the 7th highest). I hear stories like the ones mentioned above on a daily basis.
Well, on Friday May 13th, 2011, our governor, Nathan Deal, signed HB 87 – the Arizona copy-cat immigration bill – into law.
While Governor Deal resides in parts of Georgia where immigration population is practically nonexistent, I live in an area where there are many immigrants. Governor Deal, along with other anti-immigrant legislators, has literally allowed Georgia to become a “show me your papers” state. As legendary rock guitarist Carlos Santana said, “The people of Arizona, the people of Atlanta, Georgia, you should be ashamed of yourself!” And as President Obama declared, “We can’t have 50 different immigration laws around the country. Arizona tried this, and a federal court already struck them down.”
So exactly why has the governor signed HB 87 into law?
Is it because the immigrants are taking over jobs? Or is it simply because our governor does not understand the contributions of immigrants? Or maybe he just does not want to recognize their hard work. Whatever the reason, there are supporters of this bill who probably don’t understand the negative impacts – primarily the impact it will have on Georgia’s economy.
The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau publicly opposed HB 87 over concerns that the bill will hurt tourism. They stated that about $10 billion in revenue that Georgia receives is from the tourism industry. The U.S. Human Rights Network has already cancelled any future conferences it holds in Atlanta. Similar reactions occurred in Arizona after SB 1070 was passed and the state subsequently lost $140 million in revenue from event cancellations. Could this be Georgia’s future? And what would this means for you?
The bill doesn’t go into effect until July 1. But from that day onward, HB 87 will mean that:
- Communities may be fearful and take precautions like carrying around a state provided or a secure and verifiable ID at all times
- If you’re looking for a job and you’re undocumented, you might as well stop. Most places in Georgia will not hire you unless you have the appropriate papers.
- You will also need to go through an employer database called E-Verify. This database is error-prone. Businesses that utilize E-verify report that 10-15% of eligible employees were deemed ineligible.
- Those who use fake identification to find work can be fined up to $250,000 and serve up to 15 years in prison.
- Any harboring, transporting or inciting of an immigrant can get you into trouble. This includes offering a ride to an undocumented friend, which can get you up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if you’re caught. Not even universities, rabbis, priests, ambulances, bus drivers or train operators are exempt from this.
Doesn’t sound like the Georgia you know, right? Well, I can tell you that there is a multi-ethnic effort to stand united against this law, but it’s a little disheartening to think that Georgia has opted to promote racial profiling instead of the southern hospitality we’re so famous for.