More than 5,000 opponents of two state immigration bills rallied at the state Capitol Thursday. The rally included chants, drumming, prayers and a song by a homegrown duo.
In English and Spanish, speakers denounced the bills because they would allow police to verify the immigration status of suspects. And they would allow employers to see if new hirees are citizens.
In the lively crowd, hand-written signs read, “Immigrants Pick the Crops You Eat Everyday” and “Kill the Bill.”
Sister Nora Ryan from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Atlanta said the bills would devastate families. She was one of many religious figures in the crowd.
“We have not learned from our history the damage it does to break up families and to leave children with no parents, for no reason but than their parents want to come here,” she said in the early hours of the rally.
Decatur natives and folk-rock duo, the Indigo Girls, sang a song called “Shame on You” about the police searching for illegal immigrants in Georgia.
Each chamber passed a major immigration bill this session. If one bill passes the other chamber, it would go to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.
Political and religious speakers said the proposed immigration legislation will harm Georgia's economy and lead to racial profiling. They called on Gov. Nathan Deal to commit to vetoing those bills.
A group of Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Matt Ramsey who authored one of the bills, released a statement saying they are acting on behalf of Georgia's citizens who are tired of losing jobs to illegal immigrants.
In an interview later, Ramsey rejected the notion that the proposed legislation is not compassionate. He said he feels compassion for the people around the world who are lawfully waiting their turn to immigrate to the U.S. He said people should not be allowed to "jump the line" and come here illegally.
Kennesaw State University student Jessica Colotl helped out at the rally before the speakers arrived. Colotl is an illegal immigrant who was arrested last year on a traffic violation. She was indicted on a felony charge of making a false statement but was granted a deferment. Colotl unwittingly became a poster child locally for the immigration debate. She declined comment on her case Thursday.