Georgia immigrants say, ‘Sí, se puede!’

Thousands of immigrant workers and their families rallied and marched in Atlanta, one of the many cities taking part in the National Day of Action for Immigration Reform, on April 10.

The demonstration was sponsored by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and endorsed by dozens of immigrant, student, community, faith, social justice and labor organizations. Besides metro Atlanta residents, people from cities across the state travelled by bus to participate in the call for an end to deportations and detention and for a just and fair process for legalization.

Beginning and ending at the state Capitol, the marchers filled several blocks of downtown streets, passing by Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters. Workers and customers came out of stores and restaurants to watch the chanting crowd and to read the colorful signs and banners. Passing motorists waved and honked in approval.

An Asian contingent, accompanied by Korean drummers, carried a banner reading “United We Stand” in multiple languages. Banners from supporting organizations, such as the International Action Center, could be seen throughout the march.

Rally speakers included undocumented students who have taken bold steps with their campaigns, declaring themselves “undocumented and unafraid.” Georgia AFL-CIO President Charlie Fleming affirmed labor’s support for immigrant workers’ right to living wages and respect on the job. Azadeh Shahshahani of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia emphasized that “you are not alone” in the fight for immigration reform. She denounced repressive legislation such as 287(g) and Secure Communities programs, which separate families and make millions in profits for private prisons.

Georgia’s reputation for harsh and vindictive legislation continued in the last session of the General Assembly, when the Assembly rejected the use of passports as a single proof of identification and added more public services to the list of those requiring citizenship to access them.

Despite these attempts to silence their calls for human rights, immigrant communities in Georgia along with a growing number of allies are refusing to accept the status quo. Encouraged and emboldened by the national movement to demand comprehensive immigration reform that offers security for families and legalization to pursue employment and education, the mood in Atlanta on April 10 was “¡Sí, se puede!”