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Turning the Tide against HB 87: Dispatches from a DC Student Caravan

Guest Blogger • Jul 07, 2011

by DJ Maestra Mahgol (Submit your own stories here)

On Saturday July 2, 2011, a group of students and community workers took a road trip down to Georgia from Washington, DC.

Our group consisted of five members: Aaron from Jobs with Justice, Lupita from Mujeres Stitch, DJ Maestra from Radio CPR, Mateo from American University, and Nancy from National Day Labor Organizing Network. Though from different parts of the country, we’re united by the same mission: halting Georgia’s anti-immigrant bill, HB 87, before it causes further social and economic damage.

On the morning of the protest, we set up shop in Georgia’s capitol, our banner reading, “Georgia Doesn’t Grow Without Immigrants.” An apt message given the near complete evaporation of agricultural laborers from the state’s farms since Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill. As has been widely reported, 11,000 ag-jobs were vacated nearly overnight, and Gov. Deal will now apparently replace his initial replacements – probationers, only half of which showed up for work – with prison laborers.

Our mission on July 2 was to raise citizen-awareness while also showing government officials, like Nathan Deal, that we aren’t afraid to stand in solidarity for human rights. Anti-immigrant politicians, lobbyers, and activists love to boast that US citizens will fill the work-gaps created by undocumented workers who either flee or have been outted, detained, and perhaps even deported. But, so obviously, as a case study of sorts, Georgia proves the exact opposite to be true.

Regardless of skin color or socioeconomic background, we as a society need to be mindful of our resources and respect one another. We also need to recognize that the citizens who eventually fill these vacated jobs are themselves often subjected to myriad forms of exploitation: lower wages and zero-to-less benefits than their undocumented predecessors, as is the case nationally with Chipotle, or perhaps zero-to-barely any wages at all, as is the case with the aforementioned probationer/prisoner laborers, which we’re seeing in both Wisconsin and Georgia.

Such socio-economic realities reveal the stark, near immediate consequences of short-sighted, bigoted legislation that’s designed to target specific demographics of immigrants who are deemed “less desirable” or less deserving of the US way of life. As an Iranian-American immigrant myself, this law not only frightens me, but it also stuns me—why and how can such bigotry still be thriving today in a country so steeped with immigrant history?

Clearly, the South is still not free, but we need to recognize that these racist bills are not confined to any one region of this country, as these measures are being or have been pushed at various levels of the body politic in Utah, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, California, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and of course most infamously in Arizona.

These anti immigrant laws are unjust, and they are designed, again, to target only those who’ve come to the United States for myriad justifiable purposes – as war or economic refugees, as exploited workers seeking a better life, and so on – purposes that mirror migration motivations throughout US history.

If you would like to submit your own stories of resistance to the anti-immigrant movement or such bigoted legislation, click here for more information.

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