On Wednesday morning, a man walked out of the apartment complex where he and his family live in Buford Highway and crossed the street on his way to work. ICE agents detained him. Later that day, the agents notified his family that they would come back to the apartment to check on the immigration status of their occupants. He and his wife have been married only one day. The children are now afraid to go to school or even open the doors.
A group of day-laborers waiting for work at a gas station were picked up in an unmarked van a day before without explanations, only one person was released according to witness reports.
These 2 cases are just some examples of what seems to be a new reality in the state and around the country.
What is the concern with these actions? How do they affect you and your family? Why should you care?
It is not that existing laws are being enforced, but rather that the current practices are suggesting: (1) discrimination towards one specific segment of the immigrant community, (2) disregard for the social and long term impact of these actions in our community and (3) double standards in the application of our rights
While Canadians almost double the number of Mexicans overstaying their visas and therefore staying in the country unlawfully, we have not heard any reports of Canadians being detained or deported for breaking federal law. The fact is that most of the incursions have taken place in areas predominantly Latino/Hispanic or Pan-Asian.
The economic and social consequences of these detentions and deportations are long-lasting and will be a burden to the entire state and country. Consider for a moment that in Georgia over 80% of all Hispanic youth under 18 years old ARE American citizens. When parents are detained, children are often left without a support network as Georgia is a transitional state and many immigrants do not have extended family in the area. Children go to foster care, single parents can’t afford rent or to keep full-time jobs if they have to care for children at home which can lead to an increase in food stamp applications, emergency healthcare visits, homelessness and a reduction in educational attainment.
A lack of workers (and clients) lead to business loses and stagnant economic development. Consider that there is no state that has seen more growth in its number of Latina-owned firms than Georgia and that Georgia already loses over $140 million dollars in rotten crops due to the lack of labor in the fields.
To those fiscally conservative; remember that detentions and deportations have a massive cost to tax payers, $1.80+ billion in 2014 and 92% of that cost is paid by the states.
Immigrants are valuable to our closest family members but we are also a key part of the movement fueling Georgia’s economic growth and last time I checked, this was something that benefited us all.
Finally, International law (ratified by the US congress), and The Constitution afford specific rights, freedoms and protections to all individuals in the US, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status, for example equal protection, due process, the right to remain silent, protection from discrimination, to be innocent until proven guilty, etc. For years, few organizations like GLAHR and Asian Americans of Advancing Justice have worked to educate immigrants on these rights and protections but lately, given the change in immigration priorities and the many reports of raids, different groups of concerned citizens and organizations are shifting priorities to join in this campaign of “Know your Rights” by widely sharing information on social media, digital platforms and even canvasing apartment complexes along Buford Highway in different languages but of course, predominantly Spanish.
Should you want to help, it is important to remember that you can always reach out to your local community members and let them know that they are safe with you. Immigrant families should identify attorneys that can provide accredited representation and guidance to help them understand their personal situation. In general, it is important to have copies of all important documents: passports, naturalization certificates, any information about chronic illnesses, etc in a safe place with a trusted friend or relative; understand that ICE cannot come in your home without a signed warrant by a criminal court judge. You can plead the fifth amendment and choose to remain silent and you do not have to sign anything without talking to an attorney first.
Individuals that witness an ICE incursion can report and record the incident unless they are on federal government property.
Key numbers to call in Georgia to report on raids and get assistance are:
404-890-5655 (some Asian languages)
404-521-6700 number is not staffed on weekends
AILA Attorneys 404-881-4242
Since last Monday, hundreds of people have shared warnings in social media of ICE raids in Savannah, Gainesville, Doraville, Chamblee, Brookhaven and other localities in Georgia. While at the beginning, many thought it was just a rumor in Facebook, reality has proven them wrong. ICE has confirmed the operatives.