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Immigration: The economy will be damaged, and fear and hatred will be law’s legacy

POSTED: June 26, 2011 1:20 a.m.
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Teodoro Maus

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Is HB 87 good for Georgia?

The question should rather be: A law who's every paragraph targets a whole community with the intention of irreversibly hurting it; does it have anything constructive in it? Can it in any decent, humanistic sense be even remotely be considered "good for Georgia"? Or rather, doesn't it remind us of times thankfully long gone? Is it good for Georgia?

The answer is no, it is not good for Georgia. How can it be, when - before it is even acted out - it has already been used as a justification for abusive acts by some authorities in some counties? The rationalization used is very often based on false or tendentious information that is directed to create even more anger, more aggression against the Latino community. Notice that the antagonism does not differentiate between documented and undocumented, because any one that "looks Latino" is subject to being measured with the HB 87 rod.

It is a law that, also, has led to serious economic losses just by its existence and the implicit threats it offers. Laborers - who had come year after year to work the farms they knew so well, and worked so well - began to circumvent Georgia, concerned that equipped with HB 87 the authorities would go after them, unconcerned about the migratory status they might have. The serious loss of produce in the Georgia fields had been warned by the agri-industry and, in some farms, it has already become a reality; even the proposals by the governor's office to use paroled criminals as substitute farm workers, have not been able to stop the economic bleeding.

The law in itself is not necessary because the premises already exist in other legislations. Were it not for the intention to hurt, to punish, to wipe the state clean of Latinos (these concepts were used several times by Judge Thomas Thrush in the hearing about HB 87), there was no need for this one more legislation.

What it does achieve is to increase, enormously, the fines and the jail times, clearly converting what until now are much lighter sentences into serious criminal charges. Judge Thrash repeated several times the following premise: An 18-year-old citizen of the United States drives his mother, who is illegal, to church on a Sunday. They are late for mass, so he drives faster than the speed allowed and is stopped. Because the mother is undocumented and the son knows it, is he charged for "harboring and transporting" an illegal alien, and could face up to 25 years in jail? This is the spirit of the HB 87 bill, pretty much in its entirety. Judge Thrash qualified it as a bill designed for getting rid of all Latinos. If you think that the 18-year-old should be punished and sent to prison for 25 years, then HB 87 is an important attachment to justify your hatred (and fear, its complement) of a whole community living in the U.S.

But, if on the other hand, the information you receive in some ultra-conservative media does not coincide with what you have seen: hard working people, tight family ties, willing to learn the language and customs of their new home (as all new immigrants have, no matter where they come from), paying taxes, not using services they cannot use due to their migratory status, then you will reject all the assertions of HB 87. You will also reject the bill because it is addressing issues already treated in other, previous legislations, and was designed
specifically to be a punitive, discriminatory law -with good electoral possibilities - without any saving grace.

Once I read that when told that one has to obey all rules and laws, even when they might be hurtful, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., answered back saying that every act Adolph Hitler did was legal. He meant that many laws are designed to accommodate and "legalize" otherwise terrible, unjust, destructive actions. I believe he also meant that you have to critically analyze a law, to define if it has any humanitarian value and, especially, if it does not have a destructive focal point. In other words, was it created to make the world somewhat better? Or, was it written to attack, to erase any semblance of humanism? I believe that HB 87 is in the latter category, and therefore should be defeated when faced with a judge that knows how to read the substance of the document, putting aside the decorations and "art work" that try to hide the real intention that constitute it.

Gov. Nathan Deal recognized as much in an interview where he minimizes the possibility of the defeat of HB 87 in federal court, affirming that the riddance of "illegals" will continue no matter what.

We still believe that sooner or later the anger, the hatred, the ill-will that has been promoted by the hate groups will subside, and a fair appraisal of the benefits the Latino community as a whole - documented or not - offers to this great nation, HB 87 will remain as an obsolete document, "full of fury, but signifying nothing," as the bard said, warning how far we can fall, when we act with fear and abhorrence of someone different than us.

Teodoro Maus, the former consul general of Mexico in Atlanta, is currently the president of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.



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