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|LGBT activists fight immigration bills|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|March 18, 2011 00:00|
As the close of the Georgia legislative session nears, immigration bills that some LGBT activists call discriminatory are advancing in the House and Senate.
On Monday, March 14, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 40, sponsored by state Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cumming), which is designed to “enhance the use of the federal E-Verify system and to allow local and state law enforcement officers to help federal authorities identify illegal immigrants in Georgia,” according to a press release from Murphy.
On March 3, lawmakers passed House Bill 87, named the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011” but called by opponents the “Show Me Your Papers” law. HB 87 is sponsored by state Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City).
“The legislation will … protect citizens from an unlawful burden on taxpayer-funded services by requiring the use of only secure and verifiable identification documents for any official purpose, including the dispensation of public benefits,” Ramsey stated in a press release.
Among other things, the bills give local police authority to stop people and ask them to verify their citizenship status and also mandate employers use E-verify, a federal database, which Congress set up as a voluntary resource for employers to check the immigration status of potential employees.
These bills being considered by the General Assembly as the session comes to a close can directly impact gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people living in Georgia, according to members of Southerners on New Ground.
Paulina Hernandez, who identifies as a queer Latina, is co-director of SONG.
“They are mobilizing resentment,” she said about the groups pushing for the immigration laws.
Hernandez said there are several different bills in the Georgia legislature that are anti-immigration, but SONG, “a membership-based, Southern regional organization made up of working class, people of color, immigrants, and rural LGBTQ people,” is focusing on the bills that allow the police to stop and detain people to ask for citizenship papers.
“We’re calling [HB 87] the ‘Show Me Your Papers’ legislation. Part of the danger to the LGBT community is the different gender identities we have. We will get caught up in the crosshairs,” she said.
For example, if transgender people have to produce identification and their gender marker on the ID does not match how they present, there is a violation of privacy and possible trouble with police, Hernandez said.
And if a transgender person applies for a job but their paperwork has to go through the E-verify system, as required by the new legislation if it becomes law, and gender markers don’t match how they present, the person is automatically flagged. That could mean outing a person without their permission to an employer or other authority. And that can mean some people will stop seeking a job if they don’t believe they have privacy over their identity.
“And for those of us who part of both communities [immigrant and LGBT] we can be driven further underground,” Hernandez said.
‘Using us against each other’
While the legislation may be confusing to some, there is really one basic reason LGBT people need to stand alongside immigrants in this state and national fight, Hernandez argued.
“The people behind these bills are the same as those with homophobic agendas all over the country,” she said. “This is a growing trend, of ‘white nativism.’
“They are using us against each other. If we want Latinos and immigrants to stand with us against homophobia we also need to be standing with them.”
Approximately 30 activists gathered at the Phillip Rush Center March 3 to discuss ways the LGBT and queer communities can come together to fight Arizona copycat anti-immigration legislation in Georgia.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people need to join the fight against these laws because the community knows what it is like to be discriminated against and legislated against, said Kung Li, who was part of the Lesbian Avengers 20 years ago.
“What can we do as queer people, as gay people? We know our own history and can give inspiration,” said Li, who is also a former attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights and now a fellow with the Open Society Institute.
A rally is planned for March 24 at the Capitol for those who oppose the immigration bills.
Top photo: Paulina Hernandez, the co-director of Southerners on New Ground, says anti-immigration bills can directly impact LGBT residents in Georgia. (Photo via Facebook)
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