Sunday, May 8, 2011
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The Associated Press . Protesters rally at the capitol to denounce support for state bills yet to pass legislation which aim to crack down on illegal immigration, Thursday, March 24, 2011, in Atlanta.
Atlanta - As Gov. Nathan Deal prepares to sign into law an illegal immigration measure similar to Arizona's , House Bill 87, tourism officials here are employing a series of strategies. They're pointing out the differences between Arizona's law and the Georgia legislation, highlighting Atlanta's civil rights history and emphasizing how cancellations could hurt tens of thousands of metro area workers.
Their biggest concern is the series of cancellations that struck Arizona soon after Gov. Jan. Brewer signed that state's hotly contested law.
In all, the Grand Canyon State has lost about 40 conventions amid economic boycotts inspired by its crackdown on illegal immigration, according to the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association. One estimate says the lost bookings have cost Arizona $141 million.
Partly patterned after Arizona's law, HB 87 is expected to be signed by Deal this week. The measure would empower police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. It would also punish people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants in Georgia.
HB 87's supporters say Georgia needs to take action because illegal immigrants are burdening taxpayer-funded resources here. Critics say the legislation is unconstitutional and will scare away tourists and conventioneers.
Last month, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau went on record against HB 87. Bureau officials mentioned Arizona's experience when they spoke out about what the measure could do to the region's $10 billion tourism industry. The bureau's executive committee unanimously passed a resolution saying HB 87 could "tarnish Atlanta's reputation as one of America's most welcoming cities."