Over 140 Educators, Students, and Allies Sign Letter Opposing HB 87

A coalition of students, staff, faculty members and alumni of Georgia’s colleges and universities have signed a letter to Governor Nathan Deal, urging him to veto HB 87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.

The letter, which circulated online from Monday through Wednesday this week, lays out moral and practical arguments against the anti-immigration measure. The signers suggest that the bill unfairly targets immigrants and could lead to racial profiling of Georgia residents who are suspected of being undocumented migrants based on their physical appearance. The letter questions the constitutionality of the bill, and warns that it will cost the state business and revenue if organizations respect a planned boycott and choose not to hold conferences and other events in Georgia.

Over 140 Georgians have signed the letter, ranging from professors and university staff to graduate students and local activists. “Equality and fairness should reign for all, not just those who come from privilege,” Kimberly Rowan of Georgia Southern University said. “Don’t blame or punish children for an ‘illegal’ status that was not their own decision.” Another signer cited Atlanta’s slogan from the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s in expressing her opposition to the bill: “In the interest of the welfare of this generally hospitable state that is ‘too busy to hate,’ I strongly urge the Governor to veto HB 87.”

Diane Batts Morrow, an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia, linked the legislation to Georgia’s history of racial segregation and economic inequality. The bill continues “a shameful tradition in Georgia’s approach to perceived racial, social, and economic problems,” Morrow said. “Building more prisons and crafting punitive laws instead of providing better schools, social welfare agencies, health care, and jobs will not solve the problem.”

Like many signers, education scholar JoBeth Allen emphasized the impact the law could have on children. “This legislation is tearing families apart, causing children to be withdrawn from schools, terrorizing individuals who have done nothing wrong,” Allen wrote. “It is the antithesis of democracy and Christianity in a nation that claims to hold both these values.”

The statement comes after the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and other business groups cautioned Governor Deal that HB 87 could damage the state’s economy, while local activist organizations such as the Human Rights Network and the Georgia Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalitionalso voiced their opposition. The Human Rights Network vowed last week to pull its planned membership meeting in November from the state if the bill is signed into law.Signers of the letter pledged to join the boycott, and will encourage their professional organizations and other groups to hold meetings outside the state as long as the law is in force. The signed letter was delivered to the Governor’s Office on Wednesday morning.

For more information, contact Dr. Alex Sayf Cummings at 704-678-7354 or akbar.jenkins@gmail.com. The petition can be found here.