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Six Brave DREAMers Arrested While Protesting Georgia’s Harsh Immigration Laws

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Students protest HB 87 GeorgiaAs DREAMers in Washington, DC, were preparing to introduce America to the “Deportation Class of 2011,” a number of brave undocumented students in Atlanta, Georgia took a stand for their community as they protested the state’s latest set of draconian immigration laws.

From the press release issued by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance yesterday:

Six undocumented students have been arrested in after an act of civil disobedience near the state capitol building. The youth aimed to take a stand against HB 87, a recently passed law modeled after Arizona’s SB1070 that would severely restrict and isolate the immigrant community within the state.

It is time for undocumented youth across the South to come out and fight against injustice, said Dulce Guerrero, one of the students participating in the action. My dreams and my family are under attack.

Dulce Guerrero, 18; Jessica Vasquez, 18; Rolando Zenteno, 16; Nataly Ibarra, 16; Felipe Baeza, 24; and Leeidy Solis, 16; have all been arrested by capitol police. All are current high school students except for Guerrero, who graduated earlier this month, and Baeza, who received his Bachelors degree from The Cooper Union in New York in 2009. All are Georgia residents except for Baeza, who lives in New York.

To learn more about the Georgia 6, click here for their bios.

According to the Associated Press, the Georgia 6 face charges of reckless conduct, obstructing law enforcement and obstructing the street. Jessica, Dulce, and Felipe were set to be taken to the Fulton County Jail, while Rolando, Nataly and Leeidy were released to their parents. The same article also mentions that Barbara Gonzalez, press secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), issued the following statement after the arrests:

ICE takes enforcement action on a case by case basis — prioritizing those who present the most significant threats to public safety as determined by their criminal history and taking into consideration the specific facts of each case, including immigration history.

Correction: When ICE does its job, it takes enforcement action on a case by case basis, as permitted by the latest John Morton “Prosecutorial Discretion” Memo. However, ICE and its sister organizations have only too often abused privilege and power to deport pretty much, well…anyone they like.  It’s rogue and irresponsible action — whether it’s from ICE or their state legislators —  that DREAMers like the Georgia 6 are fighting. 

Recently, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law HB 87, a law modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070. Introduced and favored largely by Republicans, HB 87, like SB 1070, requires state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of certain people they “reasonably suspect” of being in the country illegally.  In fact, HB 87 contains the exact same provisions as SB 1070 that were struck down by Federal Courts only months ago. The law also forces any private employer with 5 or more employees to use the federal government’s faulty E-Verify program to determine the employee’s status. (More on Georgia and E-Verify here.)

And with Georgia’s budget shortfalls, how is passing an anti-immigration law even a priority? In fact, Georgia finds itself in a quandary. Having scared migrant workers off with their harsh immigrant law, the agriculture industry in Georgia is now relying on fugitives to do the farm work — a plan which hasn’t exactly worked out swimmingly.

Even though a federal judge has issued a temporary block against two of the harshest provisions only days before it’s set to go into effect, the undocumented population of Georgia still has reason to worry. As Mohammed Abdollahi points out in Colorlines, Georgia lawmakers have long persisted in their attack against undocumented immigrants – and it’s not bound to stop any time soon:

“Our biggest fear is that people think that some form of injunction against HB 87 means we can breathe a sigh of relief,” said Mohammad Abdollahi, an undocumented immigrant activist and cofounder of the immigrant youth clearinghouse DreamActivist.org said from Georgia. “The things that HB 87 would have allowed are already happening in Georgia, with or without the law.”

As it is with every worthy cause in any progressive society, it’s time for that to change. With ramped-up deportations and anti-immigrant laws persecuting the undocumented populations in these United States, Obama can end some pain by granting administrative relief to some immigrants — a message that will be much repeated today, as DREAMers in deportation proceedings “graduate.” As Republican legislators continue to shoot themselves in the foot by alienating the Hispanic population, they set the scene perfectly for Obama. He’s in a well-placed position to seize the opportunity and play to his base. Let’s hope that he will.