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ATL Business Chronicle

Column: Latino officials say new immigration law could hurt state

By Maria Saporta
Friday, December 31, 2010

Georgia could lose hundreds of millions of dollars if it were to adopt an Arizona-type immigration bill, according to leaders in the Hispanic and international communities.

But those leaders are concerned that state leaders are moving toward adopting such a bill without considering the economic ramifications.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Immigration Reform has been meeting to consider new Georgia legislation, and Gov.-elect Nathan Deal said during the campaign that he supported an Arizona-type bill for the state.

Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), said a full review of the economic impact of such legislation needs to occur before legislators vote on such a bill.

Gonzalez, who is a part of a coalition of organizations working on this issue, said Georgia can just look to Arizona to see how a stringent immigration bill could make international residents and visitors — documented or undocumented — feel unwelcome in the state and cause an economic downturn.

“Georgia is in the middle of courting foreign investment,” Gonzalez said. “Arizona has been hurt by the black eye it’s gotten in the international community. Foreign investment has stopped over in Arizona.”

Gonzalez said there’s also a danger that Georgia would lose major sporting events as well as lucrative convention and tourism dollars. Again, when Arizona passed legislation giving authorities more leeway in checking the immigration status of foreign residents, there was a backlash.

“The loss of revenue by a national boycott meant that hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost in Arizona,” Gonzalez said. And he believes the impact in Georgia potentially would be greater because Atlanta is a more important convention destination, and other major cities in the state — such as Savannah, Macon and Augusta — rely on tourism dollars.

Perhaps the greatest economic impact such a bill would have would be on Georgia’s agricultural industry, Gonzalez said. It is estimated that more than half of the nation’s agricultural workforce is undocumented workers.

“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in our state,” Gonzalez said. “What will our farmers do?”

The Georgia Farm Bureau recently restated its long-standing policy on immigration policy to make sure state leaders understood its position.

According to its “policy book,” the Georgia Farm Bureau opposes “any immigration law that discriminates against the farm worker and puts the farmer of Georgia at a disadvantage to farmers in other states. Immigration is a federal issue, not a state or local issue. Agricultural interests must be considered when immigration legislation is debated.”

Interestingly enough, Gov. Sonny Perdue, in a recent Associated Press interview, also urged caution when it comes to immigration reform and said that his party needed to avoid “a gang-type mentality” that could hurt those seeking to be part of the American Dream.

“The Republican Party needs to be very, very careful that it maintains the golden rule in its rhetoric regarding immigration policy,” Perdue told the Associated Press. “[Immigration] is a very emotive, emotion-filled topic that I think sometimes gets us out there where our hearts really aren’t.”

Bio Awards

The recipients of the 2011 Georgia Bio Awards will be: Annie Hunt Burris, special assistant to the president of the Medical College of Georgia; and Russell H. Plumb, president and CEO of Inhibitex. These awards are the highest honors given by Georgia Bio (GaBio) every year.

Burriss is a founder of GaBio, and she is being honored for her leadership in developing Georgia’s bioscience economic cluster.

Plumb is receiving the award for his leadership of Inhibitex, rebuilding the company after a 2006 setback of its lead product. He also is being recognized for his leadership on GaBio’s board and for serving as chair of the 2010 Georgia Life Sciences Summit.

Coke Foundation

During the fourth quarter, the Coca-Cola Foundation is awarding nearly $1.1 million to 13 organizations involved in active living, education and the environment in metro Atlanta. It is part of the foundation’s overall fourth-quarter giving of $4 million across the United States and Canada.

The largest grant of $250,000 is being awarded to the Ron Clark Academy. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta is receiving a $200,000 gift. The newly established Operation Hope has been awarded a grant for $100,000.

Other recipients include Soccer in the Streets; the Atlanta Urban League; the Young Men’s Christian Association; Year Up; the Study Hall Inc.; the Chattahoochee Nature Center; Project Open Hand; Camp Best Friends Foundation; and the Atlanta Workforce Development Board.

Grant for Latino youth

The Latin American Association has received an $18,000 grant from the Comcast Foundation to support its ¡Inspira! youth programs.

The goal of the programs is to improve the academic outcomes of Latino students and help close the academic achievement gap.

The program includes a six-week summer camp, after-school programs and the annual Latino Youth Leadership Conference.

Millie Irizarry, CEO of the Latin American Association, said the Comcast grant would enable the organization to “expand its community impact.”

Since its founding in 1999, the Comcast Foundation has distributed more than $65 million in the communities in which it serves

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. jals3 January 10, 2011 9:19 am

    Having personally seen illegal immigrants destroy two Atlanta neighborhoods through gang violence, drug trafficking, intimidation and graffiti, I am 100% in support of the General Assembly’s efforts to crack down and get this issue under control. While I think the economic impact is way overstated, it is not worth it regardless. The bad far outweighs the good. It is so sad to see elderly and longtime residents of a neighborhood have to move because the fear for their lives. The majority of the states are taking action against illegal immigration with over 15 planning to model on Arizona law, so we won’t be alone. No one wants to become the next California.Report

  2. Burroughston Broch January 10, 2011 8:04 pm

    Question: What’s a downside of enforcing our present immigration laws?
    Answer: Exposing our State legislators to attempted blackmail by the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.Report

  3. me January 23, 2011 12:26 pm

    I just want to know from the person that said you seen illegal immgrants ruin two neighborhoods. Did you go ask them if they are illegal or do you think they are by the color of their skin? It don’t matter if you are illegal or legal to be in this country you will still have people from both side do things that are wrong. I can tell you one thing that in the last five years of stopping shoplifters none of them have been illegal they have to show id to the police and I can also tell you that every time I have been in a fight with a shopplifter they have not been illegal. Maybe you need to think about what you are saying and look up the facts about what is really going on. We as American are ruining are own cities ourselves. Don’t blame it on other people.Report

  4. br3n V February 9, 2011 2:06 pm

    i just think that the government is trying to blame someone on the economy problems and thier blaming illgeal which i believe is wrong because many illegals come to work and for a better life for thereselves and thier kids i believe they should have equal right i thought this was a free country as many people say!!! just because they are doing jobs that many lazy people dont want to do because of the money and illegal are doing them does not give the right to blame them for the economy problem.. if people really wanted to work and have the money they would do the jobs just like illegal are doing!!! i am TOTALLY AGAINST ANY IMMIGRATION LAW!!!! AS AN AMERICAN FROM HISPANIC PARENTS I WILL FIGHT FOR WHAT I THINK IS WRONG!!!AND WHAT THIS GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO DO IS WRONG NO MATTER WHAT WAY THEY PUT IT!!!!Report

  5. mj36 March 14, 2011 2:15 pm

    This is all an excuse like americans will work on a farm in hot summer days or work in the kitchen or for that matter do any hard labour work these ppl just want to work and support their families and for the comment passed about seeing atlanta neiborhood being destroyed by illegal imigrants good one buddy don’t we have african american gangs destrying neiborhoods and robbing and raping ppl whites going around bulling ppl about their skin color etc etc STOP YOUR CRAP HYPOCRATES live and let liveReport

  6. lola April 22, 2011 9:02 pm

    dear government
    why in the world do yall want to approve this law that Arizona has but in georgia ?? why are yall soo races againest illegal immgrants ? if it wasnt because of them the economy would be ten times worster than it is already . these people come here for a better life and they dont need to be treated this way with this law the economy will get bad people will start leaving the usa also familys will get apartReport


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