Leaders worried about passive community

By Yolanda DeLong, Atlanta Latino, March 24, 2005

In light of the growing demand for immigration reform and a rise in anti-immigration legislative proposals, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and other organizations hosted a discussion last Saturday in Gainesville to explore issues such as education, civil rights, and civic involvement....

On a certain level, schools are at the service of the entire community, and it doesn’t matter what language the students speak, each child has the right to attend school and be treated fairly.

We need parents to be more active, even though we know that sometimes it’s discouraging and intimidating to show up at a school where they don’t speak Spanish. Many of our families don’t feel very welcome because of this....

There is nothing in federal laws that says you have to prove you are a U.S. citizen to attend a public school....

“This is a bad time to be an immigrant," Debbie Seagraves, executive director, ACLU in Georgia.

With regard to certain legislatures that are interfering with human rights, I think that we aren’t always getting the rights we must have, so I think that this is a bad time to be an immigrant, especially after 9/11, now that so many laws have changed and the public sentiment in this country has changed as well....

“Hispanics need to get more involved in the political process,” Joel Alvarado, political analyst, MALDEF....

HR 256 and other bills

HR 256, which would prohibit undocumented immigrants from accessing state-funded social services, has been shelved for the moment and will not be passed into law anytime in 2005.

According to Democratic State House Rep. Pedro Marin in an interview with Atlanta Latino last Monday, “thanks to the work of Democratic Sen. Sam Zamarripa, myself and of course, that of the community, this bill has been rejected. However, it will come up again for debate next year and the fight will continue. The media should keep distributing information on this bills, and the community has to keep sending e-mails and demonstrating against it.”

From another perspective, representatives like Republican State House Rep. Chip Rogers have presented other bills in the Georgia Assembly over the past few months that would affect undocumented immigrants in Georgia.

SB 169 - Contracts for public works: includes a provision to prohibit retaliation.

Would prohibit any Georgia department, agency, institution, or political subdivision from entering into a contract for the performance of services unless the contract states that only persons who are U.S. citizens may perform the services.

SB 170 - Department of Motor Vehicles; legal residence; valid identification; create procedure Would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify the legal address or residence of state residents, and would also prevent acceptance of driver’s licenses from other states without proof of legal residence in the United States.

SB 171 - University System of Georgia; prevent unauthorized non-citizens from enrollment.

SB 172 - Drivers’ licenses; all applicants to present valid documentary evidence of U.S. citizenship/legal immigrant status.

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