Support for dreamers growing in Georgia

By Maria Saporta

A placard at the Latin American Association on Buford Highway says it all.

“Help us rally support for legislation to protect DACA recipients!”

DACA poster

A poster at the latin American Association encourages a humane approach toward DACA recipients (Photo by Maria Saporta)

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – an American immigration policy that has allowed individuals who entered the country illegally as minors to receive deferred action from deportation and be eligible to work.

Protecting DACA recipients (also known as dreamers) from deportation has become a rallying cry – in Georgia and nationally.

In fact, the U.S. government shutdown over the weekend largely because of the DACA issue.

And, on Monday, the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to a spending cap, disaster aid and immigration between now and Feb. 8. If there were to be no agreement by Feb. 8, McConnell promised there would be a vote with an amendment process on immigration, according to CNN.

The shutdown was lifted after the U.S. Senate and U.S. House voted on compromise legislation on Monday.

But that pushes back a resolution on the DACA issue for at least a couple of weeks, and that places thousands of Georgians on edge.

Power to the Polls

A young girl expresses support for dreamers at the 2018 Power to the Polls rally in Southwest Atlanta on Jan. 20 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“In Georgia, there are about 24,000 DACA recipients that we are trying to protect,” said Anibal Torres, executive director of the Latin American Association, which has been a leading organization shining the light on the issue in Georgia.

There are about 800,000 DACA recipients across the country.

David Schaefer, director of advocacy for the Latin American Association, said the brinksmanship that happened over the weekend was encouraging.

“There’s a new level of political will that we haven’t seen before,” Schaefer said.

At the “Power to Polls” rally in southwest Atlanta on Saturday, two topics dominated – the empowerment of women and support for DACA recipients.

Eighty percent of Americans support a path towards citizenship for dreamers, Torres said. And the Latin American Association has formed a coalition of about 30 organizations that are working together on the issue.

“We have had a version of the Dream Act since 2001, so this has been a long time coming,” Schaefer said. “We essentially had a (government) shutdown because of DACA.”

Schaefer credited the dreamers for having the courage to come out of the shadows so they could become full participants in a country where many have lived for most of their lives.

“The dreamers have risked it all,” said Schaefer, adding that the LAA has been serving dreamers for years – through classes, training and other services. “The DACA issue is a personal one for us. The dreamers are so compelling. They are American in every sense of the word except they don’t have a piece of paper.”

Resist

Latinos carry a “Resist” banner at the rally (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Also in Georgia, there continues to be legislative proposals that can be viewed as being anti-immigrant and anti-Latino. For example, there are “English only” bills, and there have been proposals for drivers licenses to identify those who don’t have legal immigration status.

The coalition of organizations are trying to make sure Georgia is a welcoming state – just like many municipalities in metro Atlanta have become welcoming cities.

As Torres said, it is important for state legislators to understand that DACA and a reasonable immigration policy is essential to Georgia’s economy.

“We want people to know their rights,” Torres said. “ We will do whatever we can do legally. Because of our position here in Georgia, I hope we play a role and have a voice on these issues. That’s one reason we are putting on our conference.”

The Latin American Association is holding its first annual “State of Latinos Conference” on Jan. 29 and Jan. 30 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

Power rally

A sign at the Power to the Polls rally (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

A keynote speaker Monday morning will be Alexander Acosta, secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Also David M. Lubell, executive director of Welcoming America, will lead a discussion with several mayors from Georgia cities. There also will be an immigration panel on Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday, the conference will have two tracks – one focused on education and the other one on housing – two issues central to the Latino community.

Because the DACA issue is still unresolved, it will continue to cast a shadow on how the United States is perceived – both at home and abroad.

But Schaefer continues to have hope that the public will continue to rally in support of DACA recipients, and that the issue will be resolved in a constructive and humane way.

“If we get DACA right, we think it sets a productive tone for comprehensive immigration reform that we need,” Schaefer said. “We see DACA as a litmus test for the kind of immigration reform that all of us want.”

Power rally

Power to the Polls rally (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Power rally

Power to the Polls rally (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Power rally

Power to the Polls rally (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Power rally

Power to the Polls rally (Photo by Maria Saporta)

women's march

A flashback to 2017 at an immigrant support rally in front of Atlanta’s historic City Hall (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Power to the Polls rally

Latinos carry “Resist” banner at the 2018 rally (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Booker Anibal Torres

Cory Booker speaks with Anibal Torres, executive director of the Latin American Association in Atlanta about DACA legislation (Photo by 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.

15 replies
  1. atlman says:

    “Support for dreamers growing in Georgia”

    Pardon me, but this statement was never quantified or otherwise supported by any objective means in this advocacy oped. Also, the 80% support for DACA/Dreamers drops to below majority when the poll wording is changed from one that is sympathetic and favorable to the DACA recipients to one that examines the full scope of the issue, including chain migration.

    The Democrats could win the immigration issue were they to ever at any time articulate an actual immigration policy. They do not. Instead, Democrats only express opposition to deportations and border enforcement and a path to legalization for whoever is able to get here and stay (made much easier by their opposition to deportations and border enforcement). Democrats vehemently deny supporting amnesty and open borders. Fine: what is their policy? The answer is nothing that would in practice prevent anyone who wants to come here from coming whenever they want and staying however long they want. In fairness, it can be said that this would be a return to the Ellis Island days when we did have an essentially open immigration policy. Well that is unusual for a party that always frightens its voters with claims that Republicans “want to turn the clock back.” If we are going to have an immigration policy from the 1950s, what other policies from the 1950s are we going to adopt also? I am up for some trading: an immigration policy from the 1950s in return for that era’s abortion laws. Fair?Report

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  2. R. Norton says:

    I totally agree with the comment above. Support for these illegals and their illegal parents is decreasing not increasing. All should be immediately deported for breaking our laws. End of story. Furthermore, there are thousands of legitimate immigrant applicants who have followed the letter of the law in applying from abroad and are awaiting their entry documents many as long as (12) years. Why would we ever allow these `sneak ins’ to have a priority over those who have obeyed our laws?Report

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    • atlman says:

      Ooops. I did not mean to report this comment. I clicked in error when trying to select text. Now as for the text that I was trying to select: “Why would we ever allow these `sneak ins’ to have a priority over those who have obeyed our laws?”

      Most people agree that there is room for emergencies i.e. refugees from war and persecution, and even some economic refugees (such as from famines). However, that has to be in the context of a comprehensive immigration policy. Which the Democrats will not articulate. Why will not the Democrats articulate their policy or endgame on immigration? If they would, it would cease to be a losing issue for them. So long as they prevent from stating their immigration policy, they lose because people will assume the worst.

      I think that there are two things going on here. One is a group that actually does want an open border with Mexico – though for Mexican citizens only – for various reasons. There is actually some merit to that and the terms could be negotiated that would be favorable to both Americans and Mexicans.

      There is another group: American progressives who like to emulate European policy. So because Europe has open borders, they feel that we should too. It is an apples and oranges thing. Europe only has open borders within the EU because Europe’s “countries” within the EU are essentially the same as American states were prior to the Civil War. There also exists very preferred immigration status between EU members and their former colonies. So it is not even true “open immigration/open borders.” The EU countries that border non-EU countries and were not colonial powers (Greece et al) have the same border restrictions as everyone else.

      But America is not in an EU-style arrangement with Mexico, and Mexico is not a former U.S. colony. So it is amazing: when the Guardian, Le Monde and the other progressive EU based papers as well as Merkel, Sadiq Khan and the other EU politicians criticize our immigration policies, they are actually urging us to adopt immigration policies that are less restrictive than their own when taken in context. We should respond that we will adopt a truly open border policy when you do the same.

      But they, if the Democratic Party wants an open border policy then go ahead and come clean about it and let’s debate it. An honest open border policy is better than what we have now, which is one where we encourage, promote and reward undermining the concept of the rule of law. Propose it, vote on it, and enact it into legislation to your heart’s content. That’s better than cities, states and even in some administration federal officials simply deciding that they aren’t going to enforce the law because they disagree with it.Report

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  3. J says:

    Totally agree with you both! I think that getting this right puts us on the road to a clearer and more just immigration policy for the future for all want to be immigrants and American citizens.That 800,000 number is just one part of this issue. If we don’t also address those who never applied for DACA and the thousands of others who are here illegally as well as more border control and security, this situation will never truly be resolved.Report

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  4. Brainstar8 says:

    Yes, I am all in for DACA and believe it will pass soon. Republicans are seeing the light in this.

    But it’s time for the U.S. to take a much-needed pause and pay attention to its citizens living and working here. In cities throughout the country, especially those as large as Atlanta, there are too many people chasing services. These services, including health and education, are provided by people who have become overwhelmed. Talk to those in charge and you will learn that many positions go unfillled because there are too many unqualified workers. The jobs and funds are there, but workers lack skills and appropriate education. We must correct these problems before we open any more flood gates to people who don’t have the abilities to help contribute to the well-being of our country.Report

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  5. D.A. King says:

    It is important to note the difference between DACA, an executive action under President Obama, and the amnesty outlined in the language of any possible federal DREAM Act — the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

    According to a September United States Citizenship and Immigration Services report, there are 689,800 illegal aliens with DACA status, with 21,600 of them living in Georgia. Congressional amnesty for those 689,800 DACA recipients is far different from passage of current versions of the DREAM Act, which, according to the Migration Policy Institute, could provide legalization for more than three million illegal aliens, far more than the “one-time” Republican amnesty of 1986. (Approved under President Ronald Reagan, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act gave a pathway to citizenship to 2.7 million undocumented people.)

    The DREAM Act has failed in Congress several times since it was cooked up in 2001 because of the duplicity of its authors in hiding its true intent and the fact it was a rerun of 1986. It will be much more difficult to trick the American public on immigration amnesty again.

    That said, it would make a lot of people happy to see a bargain on real enforcement for a limited, conditional, truly one-time legislative event that would grant legalization to a portion of “the children” (some of whom are now 36-years-old) who have already registered for Obama’s DACA program — and that limited group only.

    One of the lessons of the 1986 amnesty is that nobody here illegally – of any age and no matter how they got here – should ever again be rewarded with U.S. citizenship. Neither should they ever be allowed to sponsor their parents or other family members for naturalization or admittance into the United States.

    The obvious but mostly unpublicized danger of allowing a Congressional DACA amnesty “for the children” is that even now, illegal aliens are flowing over the border with children in tow. Are we to have an amnesty “for the children” every decade or so?

    To deter the sure-to-come illegal rush of additional of victims of borders seeking the next “dreamer” amnesty, any consideration of legalization for DACA recipients should be well after legislation has been passed, funding appropriated and significant progress has been made on implementation of badly needed nationwide work-place verification (E-Verify), true border security – including President Trump’s promised border barrier – increased interior immigration enforcement and the biometric system to monitor the departure of temporary visa holder’s departure from the U.S. which is already law, but not practice.

    About half of the illegal aliens now present in our nation did not come here illegally. They came on temporary visas and never intended to leave as promised. The Department of Homeland Security reports that last year alone, 629,000 visa holders overstayed their visas as students, workers or tourists.

    All weeping and howling that we must grant amnesty and citizenship to “the children” – and that we must never “break up families” — should be met with educated and obvious reality. In addition to the children being brought over our borders illegally right now, last week, next week and next year, parents of the potential 2027 push “for the children” amnesty are flouting the fact their tourist visa to visit Disney World expired while they enroll their now illegal alien anchors in the American school system.

    More reality is that many of DACA recipients are protesting in American streets demanding an end to any immigration enforcement. Waving signs that read “ICE OUT OF GEORGIA –NOT ONE MORE DEPORTATION!” does little for their amnesty cause among mainstream America.

    Ending chain migration and the mindless diversity visa lottery should also be part of the trade for allowing the DACA victims of parental abuse to remain in the USA. They are not Americans and are here illegally.

    Reality and history should matter on 21st century immigration and amnesty. Best compromise in congress? Republican Rep Bob Goodlatte’s H.R.4760 – Securing America’s Future Act of 2018.

    You can see the growing list of GA. cosponsors here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4760/cosponsors?q=%7B%22cosponsor-state%22%3A%22Georgia%22%7DReport

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  6. Roberta Cromlish says:

    The President has already stated that the Dreamers should be allowed to stay. But not given citizinship that would lead to chain immigration, enforce e-verify and update border security, along with ending the visa lottery. Let’s make sure that any LEGAL immigrants have something to contribute.Report

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  7. L. Scott says:

    I understand and sympathize with those who were actually brought here as children – meaning under 18 – and had no control over their situation. There should be some sort of leeway made for them, but not automatic citizenship. In fact, I think we need to do as other countries do and get rid of birthright citizenship. That would stop some of the rush for people to get here and have their children. E-Verify makes sense and should be enforced. We need to place American citizens above people who have already committed a crime by coming to this country illegally. We need to get rid of chain migration and the visa lottery (which makes NO sense at all) and bump up our border security. Lower immigration levels and make it a merit system. Other countries do this too. We have laws. The laws should not bend because a party wants to play politics or try to enlarge its voter base. The people who are here illegally know they have committed a crime, and if they really love this country, they should be fine with wanting to follow the rule of law. If not, we don’t need them here.Report

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  8. Joseph Floyd says:

    The majority of people here have probably never met a DREAMer in their lives, I have taught many. These are almost 800,000 of our best and brightest young people. They chose the straight and narrow in a society that gave them every incentive not too and have risked an enormous amount to come out of the shadows. A students who hold down multiple jobs, and they have never asked for a handout. Nor have their parents, who are hard-working people who come here to build and maintain our cities, pick our crops and pay Social Security taxes, keeping the system afloat.
    If you are an older American you need to understand that you aren’t going to be around forever. We are in a new century. Your ways of thinking, your ideas are generally outmoded, that is not a bad thing, history is about change. We are not a nation of blood and soil, we are a nation of ideas, and these young people are the American dream.Report

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  9. Kirk says:

    If they are over the age of 18 they MUST complete the requirement to be a US citizen or be deported. They are old enough to know the law. If they are under 18 they MUST enroll in citizen classes in school and be a legal citizen by the age of 18, or be deported. End chain migration and any of there method that does not mandate citizenship or they will deported. The must report to citizenship probation officer until they are legal or deported.Report

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