Thousands protest immigration bills at state Capitol

Photo by Mark Lammers

Photo by Mark Lammers

ATLANTA - Capitol Police Sgt. Jack West said 4,000 were present at the demonstration, where the Indigo Girls were expected to perform. One of the organizers said the protesters came from across the state, including Athens, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon and Statesboro.

The protesters say the proposed immigration bills (House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40) are unconstitutional and could harm Georgia's economy and lead to racial profiling. They are also calling on Republican Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the laws if they come to his desk.

They gathered on Washington Street, chanting President Barack Obama's campaign slogan in Spanish: "Yes, we can!" Several carried posters and banners that declared: "We will not leave" and "No Human Being is Illegal."

Among other things, HB 87 and SB 40 would authorize state and local police to verify the immigration status of suspects when they have "probable cause" to believe they have committed a criminal offense, including any traffic violations. HB 87 would punish people who, while committing another crime, "knowingly" harbor or transport illegal immigrants or encourage them to come to the state. HB 87 also would allow state residents to sue state or local government officials who fail to enforce state laws targeting illegal immigration.

Both bills have passed their respective chambers and are awaiting final resolution.