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South Cobbers Discuss Immigration Issues in Mableton

Cobb Immigrant Alliance hosted a recent town hall meeting at South Cobb Regional Library to discuss immigration issues.

About 25 people gathered in the Woody Thompson Jr. Community Meeting room of the on Tuesday night to discuss immigration rights and House Bill 87, which will go into effect as law on July 1.

Panelists at the public forum/town hall meeting included an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union, a Pebblebrook graduate who helped organized the recent walkout protest and area directors of civil rights groups, like the Organization for Chinese Americans, which is based in Washington, D.C.

Cobb Immigrant Alliance Director Richard Pellegrino said the purpose of the meeting was to educate community members about immigrant issues.

According to a Pew Hispanic Center report released in February, Georgia has the ninth largest population and seventh largest immigrant population in the U.S.

Pellegrino said people should unite in a grassroots effort to improve the communities throughout Georgia and not spend time “scapegoating.”

Larry Pellegrini, a lobbyist at the Georgia Capitol, explained the 27-page bill to the attendants, focusing on main points: the new stricter employment verification system and a complaint commission composed of seven people.

As part of the new law, Georgia businesses would be required to use E-Verify, a federal system, which identifies current citizenship status of applicants.

The complaint commission, which is formally named the Immigration Enforcement Review Board, would have seven members who look into complaints about immigration law enforcement issues. Pellegrini said because of provisions like this one, the law is very similar to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which fined law enforcement officials if they did not arrest people who were allegedly runaway slaves.

“I’m convinced that half the people who voted for this bill have no idea what they voted for even to this day,” Pellegrini said. “They were interested in passing anything, and the sad part of it is they got away with passing something really bad.”

Most of the attendants came to receive information about how best to fight for their immigrant friends and neighbors as well as for themselves.

Azadeh Shashahanni, an attorney for the American Civil Liberty Union and the director of the ACLU’s immigrant rights project, handed out cards with information on what to do and what rights one has if stopped by a police officer or Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

Although immigration reform bills are proposed all over the country, Shashahani said, “H.B. 87 is really the worst. The 'show me your papers' provision will turn Georgia into a police state.”

Shashahanni said the provision of the bill which bans citizens from giving rides to illegal immigrants is “criminalizing the act of hospitality.”

She said the ACLU has been considering seriously challenging this bill in court.

An issue that was repeated throughout the meeting was how to deal with the almost palpable fear that has infiltrated their homes, families and communities since the bill was passed.

The law, Shashahanni explained, will force people who are illegal immigrants and U.S. citizens alike to “carry their papers on them at all times.”

Dulce Gueverra, who helped organize the walkout and , said she did so through frustration, stress and anxiety, because she knows her chances of going to college are slim.

In October, the State Board of Regents approved barring illegal immigrants from University of Georgia campus, which turned away students who were academically qualified in the last two years.

Dr. Ben Williams, who facilitated the meeting and who serves as the field operations manager for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said Guevera’s protest reminded him of the efforts for civil rights during the 1960s.

“I don’t know faces, the names or the places from which the bail money came to get us out of jail…We were eventually set free,” Williams said, referring to the times he was bailed out of jail while protesting segregation laws during the Civil Rights Movement.

The crowd of attendees, which was largely Hispanic, discussed issues on how to combat this law and, for the most part, agreed with one another.

Jimmy Lee, a South Cobb resident, did not agree with the majority of those at the meeting. Lee sat in the back as he listened quietly. He held a digital recorder, and he asked no questions during the meeting.

“What civil rights are being violated?” he asked outside after the meeting ended. “What part of ‘no’ don’t they understand?”

GaPatriot June 02, 2011 at 01:41 PM
The library will not allow an anti-illegal meeting, just like the school in Mableton would not allow students to protest with WHITE POWER signs. The principal should have been fired for not stopping that ridiculous protest, without a permit on taxpayer property. The ACLU needs to change their name to IAULM - or Illegal Alien Uncivil Liberties Marxists. Goggle Pelligrino's name - on a Baha'i radio site, where he brags how he smuggled hash into the US from Turkey. I wonder why he wants to associate with illegal Mexicans - the largest supplier of marijuana and cocaine destroying the lives of our young people.
Kiri Walton June 02, 2011 at 02:39 PM
Hi GaPatriot, the meeting was not an anti-illegal meeting. It was a meeting largely devoted to discussing House Bill 87.
cooky June 03, 2011 at 08:58 PM
I could not agree with you even more. There is a provision in the immigration law (I read a while back) that their US citizen children (born here) are required to be sent back home with them, unless they can apply for a waiver, proving that the conditions in their home countries are detrimental to their well being.
Richard "the Equalizer" Pellegrino June 04, 2011 at 06:57 PM
Yes, Pam is right...I will weigh in because first and foremost I have found that most people who are making these derogatory comments about anyone, especially immigrants (which means all Americans, and yes, many if not most came here "illegally") is because you or they are hurting yourselves and are simply looking for someone else to blame. For instance, I have offered time and time again, on this blog and through other media, to help anyone who is out of a job, especially if they feel they have been displaced by an immigrant--and in six years I have had one taker who is now working and not wasting time blaming other people. So, Zoe, what is your problem that we can help you with? For the record, no human being is an "illegal" or is "illegal" unless we all are. And if you really love your country and care to check your constitution everyone who is here on American soil, no matter how they got here, does have rights. Also, everyone is innocent till proven guilty and there are plenty of "undocumented folk" here who will be proven innocent in a court of law--so who are you to judge? (I have also found that people who accuse others of doing anything illegal or immoral are often times doing the same themselves and just hiding their own misdeeds.) And you must not have children to even consider breaking up families (which is the horrific act that this country did, especially the southern states, to African Americans, and we and they are still bearing the affects of that.
Richard "the Equalizer" Pellegrino June 04, 2011 at 07:08 PM
And GA Patriot --it is noteworthy that you do not call yourself "American Patriot" because your attitudes are definitely anti-American since it is these very immigrants who Americans, and Georgians, imported in order to benefit from their labor--just as we did the slaves--and now, again, we want to ship them back after they built this state and country and we all benefitted. That is not only un-American, it is inhuman, un-Christian and will never happen because Americans and Georgians are better than that. Regarding the youth and student protests, that was just the beginning--when the youth get going then all the dynamics change because they don't have these petty differences over race, class, etc. and just like in Birmingham it was the young people taking to the streets to bring down Bull Conner and other racists and they are organizing again--not just Latinos and immigrants, but white and black and asian and native american youth--and will force the government and elected leaders, from the grass roots, to do the right thing and end this persecution. Yes, as a youth I was involved in the drug trade (but if you listened to the whole story, you would see that I reformed, became a drug counselor and consultant to the U.S. govt and govts abroad regarding the drug trade--and by the way, Mexico is not the biggest supplier to the U.S. but the U.S. has the greatest demand for drugs and it is primarily the white community--more myths you "patriots" spread :-).

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