About three dozen Clarke County Democrats assembled Saturday morning aon the Atlanta Highway for breakfast and some sobering information about what some of the effects of Georgia’s Arizona-like anti-immigration legislation would be on the quality of life in Georgia.
Russell Edwards, Treasurer of the Democratic Party of Georgia, emceed a panel of four local people knowledgeable about immigration issues: Advocate Umberto Alvarez, Immigration Attorney Sujata Winfield, Social Worker Terry Salguero, Immigrant and an undocumented Latina Patti.
Umberto spoke of the already existing fear in which undocumented immigrants live. The bills under consideration, HB87 and SB40, would heighten that fear because of increased enforcement and stiffer penalties. Patti addressed the audience in Spanish and Umberto Alvarez translated. She stressed that immigrants only want a better life for their children and are willing to work hard to attain that better life.
Sujata Winflield gave some examples of provisions of the proposed laws. A new category of “aggravated ID fraud” would be created punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $!00,000 fine. The new laws would make simply giving an undocumented immigrant a ride a punishable offense subject to a hefty fine and possible jail time. She summarized the intention of the new laws—to create such a climate of intimidation that it will drive undocumented immigrants out of Georgia and prevent them from entering.
Russell Edwards pointed out that these immigrants account for $9.4 billion of Georgia’s economy.
Terry Salguero impressed on the audience the values of the immigrant people she has spent more than 8 years working with on a daily basis. They have, she said, faith in God, a strong work ethic, close families, and a rich, joyous culture. She stressed that the bottom line is that we must prevent these harsh state laws to be passed and enforced and, even more importantly, to get the Congress to reform federal immigration laws in order to prevent states from passing such repressive measures.
From my own perspective, we must work at defeating these draconian, mean-spirited bills, so alien to the spirit of the United States. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants and immigrants’ descendants.