Has an ‘anti-browning’ of America begun?
A man holds a United States flag while marching in protest against Georgia's strict immigration law
Pro and anti-immigrant groups across America were anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court's decision on the controversial Arizona immigration law SB 1070 because many activists and authorities believe that ruling is a determining factor when it comes to the survival and future approval of similar legislations across the country.
One of those states is Georgia.
SB 1070 in Arizona served as an inspiration for Georgia's HB 87 which was signed into law one year ago. The Georgia law is very similar to SB 1070 in a number of its restrictions:
- Authorizes police to demand papers demonstrating immigration status during traffic stops.
- It criminalizes Georgia residents who interact with undocumented persons or provide them a job.
The American Civil Liberties Union along with immigration and civil rights groups immediately filed a lawsuit which is sitting in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals' court announced that it would not make a decision on HB 87 until the Supreme Court handed a ruling on Arizona's SB 1070. That decision may come any day now.
"When I was the Mexican Consul of Atlanta right before the 1996 Olympics, Tom Fischer -the INS Director at the time- called me to ask for my help in getting him get a sufficient number of my compatriots to come to America who would be able to complete the construction of the Olympic venues in time for the inauguration. But when the year 2001 came around, the anti immigration movement started associating terrorism with those undocumented workers," explains Teodoro Maus, Former Mexican Consul in Atlanta and now President of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAH) which is one of the organizations supporting the ACLU's lawsuit.
Both the Mexican and Guatemalan Consuls in the Atlanta area say that during the first four months of HB 87's implementation in July 2011 there was a mass exodus of immigrants.
The Guatemalan Consulate in Atlanta is currently struggling to keep up with the arrests of their nationals, identifying who has been detained and the crime that lead to their arrests.
"[The authorties] take the children and separate families for nothing. Many times the authorities immediately assume that there is some type of negligence or abuse going on in Guatemalan families and they do not thoroughly investigate the situation," says Beatriz Illesscas, Guatemalan Consul in Atlanta.
"Detention centers don't notify us and if we call the hundreds of jails looking for detianted Guatemalan citizens they do not have any information because detainees are not registered according to nationality. There are only seven of us managing the situation at the consulate where our circumscription area is greater than all of Central America."