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In Georgia, Anti-immigrant Law's "Harmful Effects Already Being Felt"

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Alabama and its anti-immigrant legislative vendetta have been in the news for the past few weeks. And we’re awaiting a Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s SB 1070. But we can’t forget about the other states that have passed these ugly laws — like Georgia.

Writing at Huffington Post on the anniversary of the passage of Georgia’s harsh anti-immigrant law, Azadeh Shahshahani, the Director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia, notes that while parts of the egregious law have been enjoined by federal courts, “the law’s harmful effects are already being felt across Georgia.” Shahshahani outlines some of those harms:

As a result of the passage of this racial profiling legislation, Georgia has suffered reputational harm. At least two organizations, the U.S. Human Rights Network and the American Educational Research Association, have moved their conventions elsewhere.

Georgia’s largest industry is also suffering. Farmers who relied on the immigrant workforce are in trouble,whether or not they ever hired undocumented workers. The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association estimates that as a result of HB 87, Georgia’s economy may lose $391 million and 3,260 jobs. One such job in the agricultural community may support as many as three “upstream” jobs. Other estimates have put the economic loss for Georgia farmers at between $300 million and $1 billion. Thousands of acres of onions, cotton, melons, and other crops have not been harvested due to an acute labor shortage that is a direct result of HB 87. Additionally, a switch from crops harvested by hand to crops harvested by machine will cost a farm up to $1.2 million due to the difference in the value of such crops. Every person in Georgia who farms, transports or sells farm produce, runs a business that depends on the patronage of farmers or buys groceries will feel the impact of this law. As an editorial in theValdosta Daily Times noted:

Maybe this should have been prepared for, with farmers’ input. Maybe the state should have discussed the ramifications with those directly affected. Maybe the immigration issue is not as easy as ‘send them home,’ but is a far more complex one in that maybe Georgia needs them, relies on them, and cannot successfully support the state’s No. 1 economic engine without them.

The hard-earned tax money of Georgia’s residents has also been spent on efforts to defend this wasteful and harmful anti-immigrant legislation. According to records obtained by the ACLU Foundation of Georgia, between June 2011 and December 2011 the amount of time spent by nine employees with the office of the state Attorney General in connection with the HB 87 litigation was over 868 hours.

In light of the disastrous impact of this racial profiling legislation on Georgia’s reputation and economy, the Georgia legislature must repeal HB 87.