Protesters call for Deal to veto immigration bill

Veronica Islas, Atlanta, chants "we can do it" in Spanish during a May Day rally in Atlanta.

ATLANTA --- Jose-David and Lourdes Resendiz have lived in Georgia for 14 years, but with the governor likely to sign a bill passed by the Legislature that aims to crack down on illegal immigration, they're preparing to leave.


They were among a crowd at a May Day rally Sunday at the Georgia Capitol that police estimated at about 1,000 people. Chanting in Spanish and English, they urged Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill that contains some provisions similar to a tough law enacted last year in Arizona.

Speakers encouraged illegal immigrant workers not to leave the state but instead to dig in, organize and mobilize.

"In the labor movement we have a saying 'Don't Mourn -- Organize!' We may want to mourn HB87, but let us instead organize like never before," said Ben Speight, the organizer director of the Teamsters Local 728.

The bill passed by state lawmakers last month would authorize law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of certain suspects and to detain them if they are in the country illegally. It would penalize people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants and makes it a felony to present false documents or information when applying for a job.

It also requires many businesses to verify the immigration status of new hires using an online federal database.

Deal, who has long been a supporter of strict immigration measures, has said he plans to sign the legislation into law.

The bill has drawn criticism from civil liberties and immigrant rights groups, who say it will encourage racial profiling. Many in the business, agriculture, service, and tourism and convention sectors have said it could drive away their workforce.

Supporters of the bill say it's necessary to curb illegal immigration, which they say drains the state's resources and contributes to high rates of unemployment.

"Gov. Deal and the Legislature found a workable solution that enforces the rule of law and protects Georgia taxpayers while upholding individuals' constitutional rights," Deal spokesman Brian Robinson wrote in an e-mail Friday. "Illegal immigration costs Georgia taxpayers hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, each year at the city, county and state levels."