Tag Archives: immigrant rights

The economic crisis in the South

From a New York Times article

The once-booming South, which entered the recession with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, is now struggling with some of the highest rates, recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

Several Southern states — including South Carolina, whose 11.1 percent unemployment rate is the fourth highest in the nation — have higher unemployment rates than they did a year ago. Unemployment in the South is now higher than it is in the Northeast and the Midwest, which include Rust Belt states that were struggling even before the recession.

For decades, the nation’s economic landscape consisted of a prospering Sun Belt and a struggling Rust Belt. Since the recession hit, though, that is no longer the case. Unemployment remains high across much of the country — the national rate is 9.1 percent — but the regions have recovered at different speeds.

Now, though, of the states with the 10 highest unemployment rates, six are in the South. The region, which relied heavily on manufacturing and construction, was hit hard by the downturn.

Economists offer a variety of explanations for the South’s performance. “For a long time we tended to outpace the national average with regard to economic performance, and a lot of that was driven by, for lack of a better word, development and in-migration,” said Michael Chriszt, an assistant vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s research department. “That came to an abrupt halt, and it has not picked up.”

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Filed under Alabama, austerity measures, budget cuts, class struggle, immigration, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, workers

Tensions rise as Latinos feel under siege in America’s deep south

[From a recent Guardian article]

In Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, new laws have been signed that represent the toughest crackdown on illegal immigrants – the vast majority of whom are Hispanics – in America. They give the police sweeping new powers and require them, and employers, to check people’s immigration status. In Alabama, they even make helping illegal immigrants, by giving them a lift in a car or shelter in a home, into a serious crime. For many, the laws echo the deep south’s painful history of segregation, sending out a message to people of a different colour: you are not wanted here.

“That is exactly right,” said Andrew Turner, a lawyer with the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Centre. “We view it within the context of the history of the deep south. It is using the law to push out and marginalise an ethnic minority.”

The new laws’ defenders deny that. They are merely enforcing the law, they say. Their problem is not with immigrants, but with those who came to America illegally. They say the laws are colour-blind and aimed at making sure everyone obeys the same rules and does not cheat the system.

Yet illegal immigrants have become a fundamental part of the American system. Huge swaths of the economy rely on the cheap labour they provide.

 

The article points out an important part of “illegal” immigration that is often referred to in the overall narrative.  That is that undocumented workers have “become a part” of the American system overall.  The mainstream accounts of this often even point to the drive for cheep labor by capital as the source of the “problem” here, yet they continue to allow reactionary rhetoric dominate the discourse and put the blame on those coming here to find exploitative conditions of work.

The only way to fight this framework and empower undocumented workers is to build a movement that fights back.  And this movement is currently underway in much of the South.

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Filed under Alabama, class struggle, Georgia, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, State's rights

Resistance to hate bill heats up

[This article originally appears on workers.org]

Tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters filled blocks of Atlanta’s downtown streets on July 2 wearing white, carrying beautiful banners and hand-printed signs, and chanting nonstop in English and Spanish.

Many of the slogans referenced HB 87, Georgia’s “show me your papers” legislation, which authorizes local police to act as immigration agents and is designed to intimidate undocumented workers into leaving the state.

The march was led by members of the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA), who are challenging the restrictions on their future and calling for passage of the DREAM Act. Banners called for an end to the raids and deportations.

Many children carried signs pleading not to deport their parents. Challenging the racist aspects of the law, a huge banner depicting a strong Latina declared: “Brown Is Beautiful.” Numerous signs referenced the millions of dollars already lost to the state’s agricultural economy as crops rotted in the fields for lack of skilled farmworkers.

Four counties in Georgia operate under 287(g) agreements that have resulted in the detention and deportation of thousands of immigrants, most of whom were arrested for traffic infractions. The largest, privately operated detention center is in the town of Lumpkin and holds some 1,900 men.

Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Stewart Detention Center there, has been denounced for its profiteering off the separation of immigrant families.

The failure of the Obama administration and Congress to address legalization and a just immigration policy was addressed in chants and on placards.

In response to a call by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), protesters came from across the state, from as far as Valdosta, Dalton, Columbus and Rome. Supporters from North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and as far away as Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, California and New York joined the protest.

Week of intense struggle

The march and rally at the Georgia State Capitol capped off a week of intense struggle by immigrant communities and human rights advocates.

On June 27 a federal district judge agreed to grant a temporary injunction suspending two sections of HB 87, scheduled to be enacted on July 1. Judge Thomas Thrash stopped Georgia from giving law enforcement agencies throughout the state the power to detain and arrest anyone who could not show sufficient identification following any violation, no matter how minor, including traffic stops or jaywalking. He also prevented the implementation of a provision that would make it illegal to knowingly transport or harbor an undocumented person.

This is the fourth federal court that has barred states from assuming responsibility for enforcing immigration policies.

While immigrant and civil rights activists hailed this victory in stopping two of the most egregious sections of HB 87, Georgia law now makes it a crime to use false documents to secure a job, punishable by 15 years in prison. Starting in January, most private employers will be required to use the federal E-Verify system, known to be flawed, to ascertain the legality of new hires. Citizens will be able to sue elected officials for failing to uphold HB 87.

The day after the federal ruling, GUYA held a “Coming Out of the Shadows” rally inside the state Capitol building where five young people from Georgia and one from New York told their stories. Each concluded by saying their name and that they were “undocumented and unafraid.”

At an outside rally, longtime civil rights leaders and members of the African-American religious community proclaimed their support for the immigrants’ rights movement. They applauded the role of young people in confronting injustice, risking their lives and safety to bring about needed change.

Dressed in caps and gowns, the students led a crowd of hundreds in a march around Georgia State University, one of the state’s five institutions of higher education which the Georgia legislature has banned undocumented youth from attending.

Their lead banner read “Undocumented, Unafraid, Unashamed, Unapologetic!”

Returning to the Capitol, the students spread a large canvas with the words “We Will No Longer Remain in the Shadows” in the intersection and sat down surrounded by supporters. Traffic was brought to a standstill. Eventually, many police arrived and arrested the six. As each heroic youth was taken to a police car, dozens of chanting young people surrounded them and the vehicle.

All six were charged with multiple state offenses. Three were released to their parents’ custody because they were under 17. The other three spent the night in the Fulton County Jail and were then released on their own recognizance with an August court date.

This was the second such civil disobedience action in Atlanta with undocumented youth risking deportation to press the issue of the status of children who have spent most of their lives in the United States and have no path to legalization. Without papers, they cannot get a driver’s license, find employment, receive public benefits or attend Georgia’s top five universities, regardless of their grades.

July 1 strike spurs resistance

During the week, a number of community meetings were held in metro Atlanta to provide information in multiple languages — from Korean and Chinese to Portuguese and Spanish — about the impact of HB 87 and the injunction. Similar events were organized around the state, including one in Dalton where people were particularly concerned about police roadblocks in immigrant neighborhoods. Students and community members held a rally in Athens on June 30 at the gates to the University of Georgia, one of the universities barred to undocumented students.

On July 1, the day HB 87 went into effect, GLAHR called for a “Day without Immigrants,” a stay-at-home strike where people would not work, shop or go about their usual business. More than 125 businesses owned by immigrants, from beauty shops to food markets, closed that day in solidarity. Restaurant, construction, landscaping, hotel and other workers took the day off. Shopping mall parking lots in immigrant communities were empty.

People outside Georgia are encouraged to cancel any conventions, reunions, meetings or vacations as part of the “Boycott of a State of Hate.”

Volunteers are coming from throughout the country this summer to help build local resistance to HB 87 and other anti-immigrant legislation. A campaign to identify “BuySpots” and “Sanctuary Zones” will identify businesses that agree to publicly oppose HB 87 by refusing to allow police into their establishments to check people’s identification without a warrant and by pledging not to financially support elected officials who promote anti-immigrant legislation.

Already many bookstores, restaurants, clothing and record stores, markets, beauty and barber shops display the BuySpot sign. Churches and other religious institutions, community centers, homeless shelters and other public gathering sites that make a similar pledge will be identified as Sanctuary Zones. For more information, visit WeAreGeorgia.org.

It is hot in Georgia during any summer, but this summer the heat will be on right-wing politicians, spotlighted by a rising people’s movement engaging thousands of workers, youth and women. They are stepping out of the shadows, undocumented and unafraid.

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Filed under Georgia, Human Rights, immigration, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, Race, racism, Workers World Party

Alabama surpasses Arizona with racist anti-immigrant law

by KurtFF8

Alabama recently passed a new anti-immigrant law that many have described as “more harsh” than the controversial anti-immigrant law in Arizona that essentially promotes racial profiling (this argument is focused on the fact that folks can be questioned for being “suspected of” being an undocumented worker).  Georgia recently passed a similar law, making the South the center of the immigration debate.

As usual, both sides of the “mainstream” debate fall short of getting to the real issues at heart: the real manifestations of racism, and international labor relations (see NAFTA as an important variable to immigration itself).  Even the “liberal” arguments against these laws are full of sentiments like “well immigrants do the jobs no one else wants to do for that price.”  This line of logic is just as problematic as the more “overtly racist” arguments by the far-Right, in that the “servant class” role for undocumented workers is seen as justified or not problematic itself.

Florida also recently attempted to pass a similar law, but the state legislature as not unified and faced a strong activist response (with the Florida Capitol looking a lot like the halls of the Wisconsin Capitol for a few days).

These laws need to be fought with a mass movement based on solidarity and workers power.

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Filed under Alabama, class struggle, Florida, Georgia, Human Rights, immigration, Leftists in the U.S. South, racism, Southern United States, Tallahassee, workers

May Day events in the South

by KurtFF8

Richmond, VA – http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=111284678950426&ref=mf

Tallahassee, FL -http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=219026511447588

Miami, FL – http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=177863712264649

Atlanta, GA – http://atlanta.indymedia.org/may-day/film-screening-and-history-may-day and http://maydayatl.blogspot.com/

If you have an event you’d like to add here, please comment and we’ll be sure to add it!

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Filed under Demonstration Announcements, Event Announcement

Georgia Passes SB 1070 Copycat Bill

[Originally posted at ColorLines]

The Georgia Legislature last night approved a bill that empowers local police to check the immigration status of any suspect, even those stopped for alleged traffic violations. The final vote in the House came just two hours before the close of the legislative session. The bill, which closely resembles Arizona’s embattled SB 1070, is the first copycat bill to pass through another state legislature. It will now be sent to the Governor Nathan Deal’s desk for signature.

The 11th hour vote came amid mounting pressure from a diverse coalition to kill the bill. In the two weeks leading up the vote, Georgia immigrant rights advocates and civil rights groups collected 23,000 signatures opposing the legislation. Protesters rallied in at the capitol in Atlanta this week with signs reading, “RIP Dr. Kings Dream” and “RIP Georgia Economy.” Business groups, fearing the truth of the later, joined the opposition, forcefully rejecting the requirement that employers implement the E-Verify program to check the immigration status of all employees.

Yet, despite the broad opposition, conservative state legislators ended the week with a victory.

“It’s a great day for Georgia,” Rep. Matt Ramsey, the Republican who authored the bill told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We think we have done our job that our constituents asked us to do to address the costs and the social consequences that have been visited upon our state by the federal government’s failure to secure our nation’s borders.”

However, Ramsey’s enthusiasm may be short since the bill will now face significant challenges. Gov. Deal has 40 days to sign the bill into law and he has expressed some reticence recently about the potential costs of the law.

“All eyes on the governor,” Azadeh Shahshahani, of the Georgia ACLU told Colorlines.com. “We do hope that the Governor will veto the bill. Obviously from our perspective the bill has serious concerns. This bill makes the whole state ‘show me your’ papers territory.”

Most expect Gov. Deal to sign the bill into law, and as soon as that happens, Georgia will almost certainly face legal challenges. On Monday of this week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower courts ruling that struck down the most controversial parts of Arizona’s SB 1070 that require local police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect may be undocumented. That suit is now making its way to the Supreme Court. In Georgia, legal advocates are likely to seek an injunction in court to the bill from taking effect until it’s constitutionality can be determined.

The bill’s drafters say it was carefully crafted to avoid such legal challenge. Indeed, Georgia’s bill differs from the one in Arizona. Unlike the Arizona bill, the Georgia bill does not outright require police to check suspect’s immigration status but, rather, authorizes them to do so. Its proponents hope that this will be enough to protect it in the courts. Like the Arizona law, Georgia’s bill makes it a state crime to be present on state soil without proof of lawful status.

Many worry about the financial costs of the bill. Though these are surely not the greatest concerns for immigrant communities who would be most impacted if Georgia’s bill is enacted, many business groups are anxious. A national boycott of Arizona cost the state an estimated $250 million in lost taxes, tourism and other revenue, according to the Center for American Progress.

Even before the Georgia bill passed, a group of organizations across the country threatened to wage a boycott of the state of Georgia if it enacts the legislation.

Immigrant and civil rights advocates say the bill will spur increased racial profiling. And, says Shahshahani, this is on top of a climate in which state of Georgia already let’s racial profiling flourish.

“People of color are already being profiled across the state. Georgia does not have racial profiling laws on the books. There is no uniform system for data collection when it comes to traffic stops and there are no oversight mechanisms in place at the state level to prevent racial profiling. This bill is only going to worsen a bad situations.”

At least four Georgia counties currently empower local police to enforce federal immigration laws through the federal 287g program which makes cops into immigration agents. That program has for years been criticized for facilitating racial profiling.

Even if the law is rejected in a legal suit, it is sure to hurt immigrant communities. After Arizona’s law passed, and even since the courts blocked key portions of it, many in Arizona were fearful about how police and other institutions would be required to act vis-à-vis immigrants. The director of a Phoenix shelter for survivors of domestic violence told Colorlines.com earlier this year that in the period after SB 1070 passed, shelters saw a steady decline of women seeking help. The director attributed this to a growing fear among undocumented women about abusers ability to report victims to police and about whether state funded entities like shelters would turn undocumented women away.

Georgia now becomes the first state to pass a bill that closely resembles the one in Arizona. Similar bills have been introduced in at least 24 other states since SB 1070 passed last year. The majority have has been killed or have failed to move.

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This failure is despite a well-organized and well-funded strategy to move more such bills across the country. Those efforts, as NPR reported last year, have involved a national network of state legislators and private enterprise, including private prison and immigrant detention companies with clear interests in increasing the number of immigrant detainees.

All eyes now move to a handful of other states where similar bills may still pass. The Alabama House passed an SB 1070-like bill last week and bills have been approved by one house of the South Carolina, Oklahoma and Indiana state legislatures as well.

Florida may also be considering passing a similar law.

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Filed under class struggle, Georgia, immigration, labor movement, Southern United States, Uncategorized

Fight Back Florida, March 25th

On March 25th, cities across Florida will be holding rallies and marches to demonstrate that Florida workers are going to fight back against the recent anti-worker measures introduced by the state legislature.

Rallies will be held in various cities around the state.  Check the website for more details http://www.fightbackflorida.com

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, class struggle, Demonstration Announcements, Florida, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Students, Upcoming Events