This Fourth of July weekend, it’s important to remember that one of our most important rights as Americans is the ability to publicly dissent. Thousands of people exercised this right outside in downtown Atlanta today, rallying against the state’s new immigration law, HB 87, which would attempt to crack down on illegal immigration. Earlier this week, a judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking parts of the legislation, while allowing other elements to go forward. While some of HB 87′s most controversial elements consequently did not go into effect, people still descended on the state capital, showing their unhappiness with a law that creates a climate of hostility toward immigrants.
“I have family who are not residents,” said one woman, who is a legal resident in the United States but nevertheless sees herself as allied with those are in the country without documentation. “I am together with the Latin people. I love Georgia. I have stayed here for 18 years. I want to buy a house here.”
Another legal resident, a college student at Emory who was born in China, said that she was there because HB 87 can be seen as an attack on the rights, not just of Latinos, but “all non-American people.” She added, ”We are the same community. We have to fight for our rights.”
The law, in its original form, would have empowered police officers to check on the immigration status of people who couldn’t provide the correct documentation. It would also have penalized people who willingly harbor or transmit illegal immigrants while committing another crime, like speeding or driving without the proper equipment. These provisions were blocked on Monday by a federal judge who said that the state is enforcing immigration law that should be left to the federal government.
But other elements of the law went into effect on Friday, including a measure which makes it a felony to falsify documentation during a job application procedure, and another which requires people to obtain certain kinds of identification while applying for public benefits.
While the display of solidarity in Atlanta today was inspirational, it’s also a reminder of the scope of the struggle for fair immigration policy. Georgia is just one of a growing handful of states which is cracking down on undocumented immigrants, and the stage is being set for a struggle between federal and state officials about who controls immigration enforcement. The important thing to take away from the rally is that measures like these affect innumerable people who contribute, economically and socially, to our country’s fabric.
Photo from Takomabibelot’s Flickr photostream.