Dispatches from Georgia: GLAHR Speaks Out Against Implementation of HB-87

Guest Blogger • Aug 04, 2011
A delegation of students and activists are in Atlanta this week to document efforts to resist anti-immigrant law H.B. 87. The delegation members will be sharing first-hand accounts of their experiences with daily dispatches. Visit Imagine 2050 regularly for more Dispatches from Georgia.

By Alexander de la Torre Bueno and Catharine Debelle

Adelina Nicholls walks into a conference room in her Atlanta office. She is carrying a manila folder filled with so many papers that it looks more like a Webster dictionary. Nicholls lays the folder on the table and splits the stack of papers in two.

“We’ve got thousands more of these. I think there might be a hundred here,” she says to a visiting delegation member before reading from the first paper at the top of the left pile.

“Pulled over for taillight. Pulled over for slick tires. Pulled over for a traffic violation, “ she says listing off a series of traffic infractions that go on for pages.

The sheets in Nicholls’s folder record occurrences that resulted in immigration investigations by Georgia’s law enforcement community. Since HB-87 was signed into law at the beginning of this month the justification for immigration investigations has become much laxer and countless undocumented workers have been deported throughout Georgia.

According to first-hand accounts collected in Nicholls’s office by Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), when confirmed as an undocumented immigrant the new protocol under HB-87 waives a person’s right to due process and a public appointed attorney. Instead, if alleged undocumented Georgia immigrants wish to defend themselves they must hire a private attorney for a standard $1,500 dollar retainer.

Thanks to its outreach efforts to Latino communities, GLAHR has been able to keep detailed records of many instances like those mentioned above. Reports received by the Atlanta office from community leaders across the state give detailed descriptions of deportation cases, which GLAHR has organized and sent off to the Justice Department in the hopes of spurring a legal reaction to Georgia’s implementation of HB-87.

Right now, says Nicholls, most of the assistance her organization receives comes from the ACLU, as opposed to Latino rights groups. Arizona received the majority of attention both in media and resources while Georgia took a backseat. Although there was a significant turnout for the, July 1st day of non-compliance, and the July 2nd march against HB-87, consistent support has not been there like it was for Arizona’s battle against SB1070. Georgia’s law in many ways is stricter than its Arizona counterpart and according to GLAHR, 98% of all immigrants it deals with are undocumented, leaving room for the law to significantly impact the state’s migrant population.

“The communities are really mad in terms of the amount of road blocks located all over the place in Latino areas,” says Nicholls, “We have cases where this guy, his mother was arrested, his father was arrested, his brother was arrested, his whole family was arrested.”

Road blocks, as Nicholls mentioned, have been used by police in counties across the state, and through initiatives like 287(G), to deputize many law enforcement officials to act on behalf of Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

GLAHR president Teodoro Maus expressed his wish to see greater media attention for Georgia’s immigration struggle. Maus said that his organization recently refocused its efforts towards informing the public through media. A billboard campaign created by GLAHR, shows statistics coupled with pictures of migrant workers.

One billboard reads, “Undocumented workers paid 7 billion to the social security system in 2006,” and another, “Tax contribution by undocumented Latinos to Georgia’s coffers could total up to $252.5 million.”

The billboards are a step forward in what Maus sees as an information battle against conservative Atlanta lawmakers and lobbyists. In the future he hopes to expand his organizations media presence into television and film. Currently GLAHR operates one talk radio station in Atlanta, while Maus says nineteen similar stations support his opposition.

“The big problem of anti-immigration comes from misinformation. They do it through the media they have, and the response should be the media,” says Maus.

HB 87 streamlines the deportation process and has caused many Latino communities in the state to look to their own rather than the law for help.  “For us the power is the people,” Nicholl says, “We come back to the commites populares in terms of resistance to create our own defense against HB 87, the racial profiling and the harassment.”

As Nichols left the room, carrying the thick stack of papers, those representing the delegation were left with the question, how will similar policies effect their own communities?

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