by Cristopher Rubio
Let me just start by saying that I love living in Georgia. I’ve lived here since 2007 and there’s plenty to do (in Atlanta anyway), and the weather’s not too bad either. But given the way that the state’s lawmakers and citizens have treated the extremely divisive issue of immigration since my time here, I must say that I’m embarrassed to call myself a Georgian.
Here are some of the following things that have happened in just the last 18 months:
- March 2010: Kennesaw State University student Jessica Colotl ignited a national debate on immigration after it was found that she was paying in-state tuition despite her undocumented status. After spending two months at an Alabama detention center, Colotl returned to Kennesaw State only to endure the constant harassment from classmates and others.
- May 2010: A bar owner in Cobb County thought it’d be cute to post this outside his bar. Reminds me of that Georgia bar owner that was selling these shirts during the 2008 Presidential Elections.
- October 2010: The State Board of Regents voted to ban undocumented immigrants from attending the top colleges in the state.
- March 2011: Third-graders in a Gwinnett County school were given an assignment titled, “What is an Illegal Alien?” The assignment included a short passage and some multiple-choice questions, one of which asked, “What does the U.S. do with illegal aliens?” Wonder what the “correct” answer was…
So yeah, this isn’t the most tolerant state in the union. To make matters worse, during the 2010 Gubernatorial election, both the Republican candidate Nathan Deal and Democratic candidate Roy Barnes made it clear that they supported Arizona’s HB 1070. Basically, whomever Georgians voted for was going to implement something very similar. Great.
Deal was elected Governor, and our lawmakers wasted no time in passing a similar law. Deal signed HB 87 into law in May, ignoring the lessons from Arizona and the potential loss to our tourism and agricultural industries, among others. The law, set to take effect on July 1, is being challenged in court. However, a judge granted a temporary injunction last week (surprise, surprise), delaying the law from taking effect for at least another few months.
Many undocumented immigrants have already left the state since HB 87’s passing, leaving many farmers with few workers to harvest their crops. Governor Deal’s answer? A program that hired ex-convicts to tend the fields.
Time will only tell what happens with HB 87, but it’s still frustrating that our political leaders passed a law that hurts the Georgia economy and doesn’t help paint the state in a very positive light.
Luckily there are great organizations like GALEO and glinc (to name a few) that help give a voice to the voiceless. But there is still a long way to go in this fight, and I fear things getting worse for the immigrant community in Georgia. After all, that’s been my experience since moving to the Peach State.
To learn more about Cris, visit ElKaminoReal.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.