March 20, 2013
ATLANTA — On March 21, 2013 at 10:00 a.m., Georgia-based human rights and faith groups will host a press conference in front of the State Capitol to call on legislators to reject legislation that promises to embroil Georgia in further controversy and reputational harm. If passed in its current form, HB 125 will have a similar effect as some of the worst provisions in Alabama’s law by denying many immigrants access to utilities, marriage certificates, and municipal buildings requiring ID. The groups will call on the legislature to instead act on its original intent and pass sensible legislation to alleviate some of the burdens imposed by HB 87.
Press conference to announce human rights and faith groups’ unified opposition to anti-immigrant legislation pending at the Georgia legislature.
Nan Orrock, State Senator
Pedro Marin, State Representative
Rev. Gregory Williams, Lead Pastor, The Power Church
Adelina Nicholls, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU Foundation of Georgia
Miriam Zuniga, Freedom University
Everitt Howe, Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment
PJ Edwards, Travelers Together immigration education and advocacy ministry
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Outside the Georgia State Capitol, Washington Street side
March 09, 2013
By KATE BRUMBACK
The Associated Press
Some quiet changes to a bill that was intended as a simple fix for unintended consequences of a 2011 crackdown on illegal immigration have turned the bill that originally had pretty universal support into a rallying point for activists on all sides of the immigration issue.
The bill sponsored by state Rep. Dustin Hightower, R-Carrollton, was presented as a solution to complaints from several state agencies that Georgia's 2011 law was creating extra work and delays in processing public benefits, including professional licenses.
But the amended bill passed by the House Monday would effectively deny driver's licenses to young people who were brought here illegally as children and who have been granted temporary permission to stay and work here under an Obama administration initiative. It also would bar illegal immigrants from being able to get a marriage license or access water and sewage services in the state.
Though the amendments would affect relatively few people, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is quickly organizing efforts to protest the bill.
"All of a sudden, we're confronted with all of these damaging changes," the ACLU's Azadeh Shahshahani said. "These are all additional complications and burdens that we don't need."
The Dustin Inman Society, which pushes for stronger laws targeting illegal immigration and stricter enforcement of existing laws, sent out an email blast to supporters urging them to call their lawmakers to tell them to keep Hightower's bill intact and to defeat a more limited Senate version of the bill.
Though Hightower says he didn't initially realize the potential effects of the changes, he hasn't said whether he intends to take them out. He said the additions to his bill weren't meant to dupe anyone, that they were intended to streamline the legislative process.
"The original intent of this bill was to be something to facilitate people obtaining and keeping a professional license in a much easier fashion," he said, adding that it was also meant to preserve taxpayer-funded public benefits for U.S. citizens and other eligible legal residents.
Georgia's 2011 law targeting illegal immigration requires anyone applying for or renewing public benefits — like professional licenses, welfare and unemployment benefits — to provide a "secure and verifiable" document proving their U.S. citizenship or legal presence in the country.
People in the country illegally have long been ineligible for Georgia driver's licenses. But after the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program took effect in August, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens declared that those with deferred status could get a temporary driver's license.
However, the advisory opinion Olens issued at Gov. Nathan Deal's request seems to indicate that those in the federal program are not eligible for state identity cards, because those IDs are subject to the law governing public benefits. The pending legislation adds "state issued driver's licenses" to the list of public benefits.
Hightower said he didn't know whether his bill denies driver's licenses to those granted deferred action, and said that wasn't his specific intent. But he didn't say if that was something he'd be in favor of or if he'd reconsider the addition of driver's licenses to the list of public benefits.
The 2011 law charged the state attorney general's office with creating a list of documents that government agencies could accept if they require identification for an official purpose. The list currently includes foreign passports, the only document on the list that those in the country illegally would be able to obtain legitimately.
By removing foreign passports from the list unless they're accompanied by federal immigrationdocumentation, the new bill would technically prevent illegal immigrants from getting a marriage license in Georgia or from accessing water and sewage service in the many municipalities that require identification to turn on service.
Hightower said the possibility of preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining marriage licenses and access to water and sewer services was not intentional. Since being made aware of that issue, he's looking at what can be done to resolve it, he said.
Copyright The Associated Press
October 23, 2012
This month Mark Lyttle, an American citizen from North Carolina who has mental disabilities, received a 175 thousand dollar settlement from the federal government. A federal district court in Georgia found the government wrongfully deported him Mexico.
In 2008 Lyttle was inexplicably referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. That’s despite the fact the bi-polar man had never been to Mexico, shares no Mexican heritage and spoke no Spanish.But he was detained and deported to Mexico with just three dollars in his pocket.
Azadeh Shahshahani with the Georgia ACLU , which represented him, says Lyttle spent 125 days wandering central America.
She says he was" living off the streets and homeless shelters, and begging. And he had no way to prove his identity either, so he was imprisoned at times.“
Ultimately, someone with the American Embassy in Guatemala helped him get back to the U.S.
ICE has refused comment on Lyttle’s case. A spokesman says they now offer a 24-hour hotline to help detainees. ICE personnel will collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant Field office for immediate action. Shahshahani says that is a good first step. But she says people with mental disabilities need a court-appointed lawyer to ensure their rights are protected during the deportation process.
She says “The ACLU has done a study on documented cases where individuals who could not even remember their own names were left to languish in detention centers with nobody really caring what happens to them until an attorney or advocate discovers their fate.”
June 25, 2012
The ACLU Foundation of Georgia, in conjunction with other civil liberties and community organizations, recently sent a letter to Apple regarding allegations that customers have twice been denied the right to purchase merchandise in their stores in suburban Atlanta on the basis of race. In both cases, the customers denied merchandise were of Iranian descent.