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Latinos Hand Georgia a New Congressional Seat and What Thanks Do They Get?

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Governor Deal Poised to Sign Arizona-Style Anti-Immigration Law with Goal of Expelling them from State

Despite opposition from the business, faith and education communities, the Georgia legislature just passed an Arizona-like anti-immigration bill, and Governor Nathan Deal said that he plans to sign it.  According to Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, the bill will “create an extremely hostile environment in Georgia.  Georgia is seen as the home of the civil rights movement.  The irony is that the state will be working against civil rights. 

Another irony is that Georgia will soon gain a new seat in Congress, largely due to the growth in the state’s Latino population, but state lawmakers and Governor Deal are about to enact a measure with the goal of driving them out of the state. 

“Georgia is a classic example of the Republican Party’s tone-deafness when it comes to the politics of immigration,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “According to the results of the 2010 Census, Latinos played a key role in expanding the state’s power in Congress.  Yet, the state’s leaders are about to enact a law designed to make them leave.  Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.  Demographics is destiny, and Georgia Republicans would be wise to make peace with Latino voters and find a way to bring them into their tent, instead of trying to pass laws to get rid of them.”  

Many analysts have pointed out that the Republican Party has a major political problem on its hands if it continues to antagonize and demonize Latinos.  What few have noted, however, is that Latinos are helping expand the political power of red states like Georgia, South Carolina, Utah, and Texas.  Instead of passing laws designed to scare Latinos out of these states, Republican policymakers would be smart to reach out and court them.   

According to an America’s Voice Education Fund report, Georgia is one of eight states that will gain a new Member of Congress in part due to its expanding Latino population.  Latinos comprised 23% of the state’s population growth from 2000 to 2010.  If the state is successful in alienating Latinos, it will likely face contracting influence in Congress following the next Census.

In addition to helping the state expand its political power for the coming decade, Latinos are also becoming more of a political force in the state.  The AVEF report finds that Latino voter registration increased 477% in Georgia from 2000 to 2008, and turnout jumped 392%.  With 53% of Georgia’s under-18 population comprised of Latinos, blacks, and other minorities, the Republican Party would be smart to find a way to reach these voters instead of simply antagonizing them. 

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.