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.”
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.
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