03 June 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Undocumented Youth Sue Georgia For Anti-Immigrant Legislation

Yes, you read that right. DreamActivist is part of the “rights group” suing Georgia for HB-87, a copycat of Arizona’s papers-please anti-immigrant law.

Immigrants — both documented and undocumented–contribute over $25 billion into Georgia’s economy, by buying and selling goods, paying taxes, and creating jobs. The new law will successfully divert public safety resources into racial profiling and make it criminal for U.S. citizens to live with their own relatives. The point is to get rid of everyone who seems brown in Georgia.

Here’s an irony. Undocumented immigrant youth from DreamActivist have actually moved to go live in Georgia in response to the law. Recently, seven undocumented immigrant youth held a well-publicized civil disobedience action to stop the passage of the bill. Not only that, we are now suing the state of Georgia to eliminate the racist law from the books. Here’s a short summary of the fact-pattern from the complaint that is relevant to undocumented immigrant youth that are currently living in Georgia:

If HB 87 takes effect, DREAM members are at risk of being subject to prolonged immigration status checks even if they are authorized by the federal government to remain in the United States. DREAM[Activist] has members, including Georgia members, who have been granted deferred action by federal immigration authorities. Deferred action is a discretionary decision not to arrest or deport a person for immigration purposes. Deferred action is often granted for one year time periods, but can be renewed. However, the temporary and indefinite nature of deferred action means that a DREAM Act student granted deferred action would not be automatically eligible to obtain identity documents in Georgia, and such students often spend months out of each year with no identification while they wait for new documentation to prove that the federal government has extended their deferred action grant. Under HB 87, these students are likely to be caught up in prolonged immigration status checks although they are authorized to remain in the United States. DREAM[Activist] members, including Georgia DREAM members, may also benefit from a private immigration bill introduced by a local Senator or House of Representative preventing their removal from the United States. Upon introduction of a private bill, a DREAM Act student’s removal is delayed at least until the end of the congressional session. A DREAM Act student with a private bill introduced may not have proof that the bill was introduced or an officer may be confused as to whether a DREAM Act student with a private bill can remain in the United States. Under HB 87, Georgia DREAM Act students with a private bill introduced but not passed in either the House or Senate may be targeted and arrested under the law.

I think this part of the complaint could have done a better job of naming individuals living in Georgia who would be directly affected by HB 87. Then again, our stories, lived experiences and traumas seem to disappear in large-scale class action lawsuits. I do like the resistance apparent in the second prong of the complaint:

If HB 87 takes effect, DREAM[Activist] will be harmed in other ways, as well. DREAM[Activist] harbors undocumented students in houses within the State of Georgia and provides transportation to undocumented students with and without deferred action grants. DREAM[Activist] will continue to do so even if HB 87 takes effect. DREAM[Activist] also has planned and will continue to plan conferences and training sessions in Georgia that bring together undocumented students nationwide. Under HB 87, these actions could be considered assisting, transporting, and harboring undocumented students in Georgia which would expose DREAM members to criminal liability.

There’s a certain legal tension between arguing in a court of law that federal immigration law pre-empts state law and as a grassroots movement, advocating for state DREAM Acts as a response to the failure of the federal government to set a consistent and workable immigration policy. On one hand, the lawyers are arguing for a uniform federal immigration policy to trump the creation of a patchwork of immigration laws in different states. On the other hand, if we want to get rid of federal measures like S-Comm in a court of law, we have to argue that the federal government has no right to force local and state officials into regulation of immigration policy. I’m not so sure I’m comfortable with the precedents that may come out of the lawsuit.

But suing the apartheid South is still fun.

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