The Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia) strongly believes proposed legislation S.R. 587 will negatively affect international families, entrepreneurs, and students residing in Georgia limiting both the state and their personal aspirations for economic and educational progress.
30 Fortune 1000 businesses make Georgia their home base, many of those companies bring, along with their tax revenue and local investment, a significant workforce of international executives to facilitate the company operations in other countries and continents.
The vast majority of those executives bring their families, often times with limited English language capabilities; I know because I was one of them. I moved to Georgia as the partner of a Coca-Cola executive doing work on Latin America and other regions of the world. My English was less than ideal and I relied on documentation in Spanish, my native language, to navigate the system.
My husband’s income could support both us and it was only because of this privilege that I was able to enroll in a community college to learn English. In fact, while I can function, I am still learning.
International families in Georgia, those of executives, graduates students or workers, settle in our state and enjoy international access through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and a vibrant and diverse community. Basic services, such as driver’s license tests in a language we feel comfortable with; allow us to insert ourselves into the busy life of Georgia. We get jobs, enroll in educational institutions, drive children to hospitals and schools.
Georgia already has an official English law (passed in 1999), this new proposal, an amendment to the Georgia constitution requiring all state officers and agencies to conduct official business and communication in English only, is not only unnecessary, it has clear negative consequences, making it harder for international families, entrepreneurs and students to access programs, services and reach their elected officials, hindering our potential as active contributors to the state and as self-sufficient family and businesses.
In the proposal, under Section 1, lines 22 and 23 note the Georgia government would like to promote proficiency in English and clarifies that speaking English and languages other than English benefit the state both commercially and culturally and should be encouraged. We wholeheartedly agree, yet we recommend that instead of penalizing and stigmatizing those of us that already have other language capabilities, the state should invest in language education and resources to support hard-working families in a wide range of occupations to access and improve their English language capabilities.
We join GALEO, the ACLU, Asian Americans for Advancing Justice, CAIR Georgia, Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA) in their statement that the proposed legislation will limit the opportunities to attract international investment to Georgia.
The Georgia International Investment Team (II) notes that foreign direct investments typically create more jobs per project and have a high dollar amount. As of 2014, International Investment brought 6,348 jobs and over $1.13 billion in capital investments.
Additionally, one in seven workers in Georgia is an immigrant, making a critical share of the labor force across industries. One in five self-employed business owners in the state is an immigrant with over 90,400 immigrant business owners.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development website (georgia.org) reminds us that “Among the factors contributing to the state of Georgia’s impressive international growth are access to the world’s busiest and most efficient passenger airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the state’s young and skilled workforce, low costs of living and doing business and the increasing utility of the state’s seaports. While these assets draw international companies to Georgia, it is the welcoming business community in all corners of the state that keeps them here.”
Let’s do what we can to keep it that way, welcoming, international, and growing.
Gigi Pedraza, Executive Director. Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia)