Georgia Law Threatening Immigrants With Fines and Jail Time May Lead to National Boycott


On Thursday, Georgia’s legislature passed a harsh anti-immigrant law based on Arizona’s SB 1070, which has thus far been found unconstitutional by two courts. A day after the Georgia bill was passed, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that he would sign it into law.

The Georgia law, referred to as House Bill 87, was introduced following a charged political campaign last fall in which tea party candidates won election based on promises of cracking down on immigration. In particular, Gov. Deal aired television commercials blaming undocumented immigration for many of the state’s fiscal problems.

According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, House Bill 87 does the following:

—Empower local and state police to arrest illegal immigrants and transport them to state and federal jails;

—Punish people who use fake identification to get a job in Georgia with up to 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines;

—Penalize people who – while committing another crime—knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants or encourages them to come to Georgia. First-time offenders would face imprisonment for up to 12 months and up to $1,000 in fines;

—Establish a seven-member Immigration Enforcement Review Board to investigate complaints about local and state government officials not enforcing state immigration-related laws;

—Directs the state Agriculture Department to study the possibility of creating Georgia’s own guest worker program. Some Georgia employers have complained the federal government’s guest worker program is too burdensome and expensive.

The bill drew intense opposition from civil rights groups in the weeks leading up to passage, and congressman and civil rights pioneer John Lewis recently spoke out against it at a rally:

We are all brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter whether we are black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native American. We are one people. We are one family…We all live in the same house. If any one of us is illegal, then we all are illegal. There are no illegal human beings.

A boycott in March helped kill several new anti-immigrant bills in Arizona and immigrant rights supporters are already considering calling for a national boycott aimed at pressuring Georgia into repealing the new law. It is uncertain at this time whether the boycott will be aimed at Atlanta’s large convention business or at signature state products like Coca Cola, Georgia peaches, and Vidalia onions.

Although supporters of House Bill 87 claim they have made adjustments to the Arizona model bill that will allow it to pass Constitutional muster, it will also face challenges in the federal courts.

Image of Atlanta immigrant rights rally courtesy of aymanfadel via Flickr.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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