In 2006 and 2008, Sonny Perdue signed some of the toughests laws against undocumented immigrants in Georgia SB529 and SB350. SB529 built on 287(g) program. Section 287(g) was added to the Illegal Immigrantin Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 and adopted by several counties (Whitfield, Cobb, Hall and later Gwinnett).
The laws not only limited state-administered benefits to individuals and families without all proper documentation, it also penalized employers that failed to check the employees’ immigration status AND required that police officers check the immigration status of the individuals they arrest.
While Purdue noted at the time that the law was not anti-immigrant, the reality is that a transitional state like Georgia has at least half its Hispanic population under undocumented status and in the best case, mixed status and one of the many consequences of these laws has been the deportation of thousands of parents of children. Children that are US citizens; mostly Latinos.
Loses in the agricultural industry during Mr. Perdue’s term and after them are not only atributed to the drought (that he famously prayed for it to end) but also to the lack of workers in the fields. According to a University of Georgia study, farmers were about 40 percent short of the number of workers they needed to harvest crops in the state. The shortage was due to the laws noted above that prevented workers from driving and securing jobs.
Moreover, poultry factories were also deeply affected just as every other business in the state. Many small growers actually elected not to plant many crops or to plant any crops at all as it is estimated that at least 50% of agricultural workers in the U.S. were undocumented at that time (United States Department of Labor, 2005)
Gov. Perdue’s campaign website in 2006 stated a narrow and bias view of immigrants. He noted “Illegal immigrants’ first stop when they cross the border should not be the welfare line. Georgians cannot carry the burden of individuals who are receiving state services and not contributing to the system” In December 2006, Sonny instructed the state agency which administers our taxpayer-funded healthcare program to institute a new income and citizenship verification requirement for applicants.
At that time, it was estimated that undocumented workers contributed over US$200 million to the local economy. Moreover, It is estimated that 40,111 children who are U.S. citizens saw parents who are undocumented residents taken into ICE custody through detainers between 2009 and 2013.
SB529 and 287(g) opened the doors to even tougher laws like HB87 and caused trauma, pain and long-term harmful impact in familie and especially children. Already marginalized families dove deeper into poverty and hundred and possibly thousands of children became suddenly homeless, left to be adopted or raised by relatives or friends (it is estimated that 70% of children whose parents are deported remain in the US as they are mostly citizens). DFCS at the time had little cultural competency at all and very few Spanish speaking staff, their training manual to work with Hispanic families was issued in 2009.
To be fair, Sonny Perdue did try to incorporate Latino voices during his administration by launching the “Latino Commission for a New Georgia” that incorporated the Executive Director of The Latin American Association at the time (Maritza Pichón), the CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (Sara Gonzalez) as well as renowned Hispanic business owners: Anna Cablik, Jorge Forment and corporate executives such as Rudy Beserra among others. Also, Sonny Perdue appointed Dax Lopez to the State Court of DeKalb. Judge Lopez won re-election.
Purdue opposed same-sex marriage in Georgia.
Read more about commentary and studies on the impact of the noted laws in agriculture, the poultry industry and our families.
Source: Campaign website, www.votesonny.com, “Issues” , Nov 7, 2006