Immigrant rights groups pushing for national reform marched Wednesday in many cities, including Atlanta. Protesters here in Georgia also pressed Gov. Nathan Deal to veto a bill that would bar people here illegally from using a foreign passport for ID.
About 1,500 people gathered at the state Capitol urging Washington lawmakers to pass a federal immigration overhaul. They also spoke against a bill that would invalidate foreign passports without immigration documents as forms of identity.
And they want a halt in deportations for low-level offenses. America Gruner with the Coalition of Latino Leaders in Dalton says police have deported 3,500 people in her area since 2008.
“We are so concerned because our community has been harassed," she said before the march. "We want a federal solution so we can work freely and to have a path to citizenship that will allow us to live without fear.”
Opponents of the state measure say it might be unconstitutional because it overrules federal procedures on immigration.
Backers, however, disagree. Representative Dustin Hightower, a Carrollton Republican, says it doesn’t conflict with any federal laws. And he says the bill won’t affect anyone here legally.
Judy Craft is with the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leaders. She says the bill closes a loophole in an earlier bill that undocumented residents were exploiting.
“Some people would come here illegally and then go to the consulate or the Mexican embassy or any other embassy from any other country, and then ask for a passport, and evidently they were getting them," she said in a phone interview. "And those passports should be gotten before you come to this country.”
Gov. Deal hasn't signed the bill yet.