House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40 would require businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm employees work status and would allow state and local police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop for a suspected crime, including a traffic violation. Both bills have passed their respective chambers and are awaiting final resolution.
The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights initiated the protest action.
Several dozen workers from the grocery chain H Mart negotiated with their boss to take the day off. They traveled together from Duluth, Georgia, to join the protest.
Three young workers from Honduras who work for a small gardening company said they told their boss they wanted to come to the protest and he gave them the day off. This was their first action. Aristides Argeta said, Now if we are arrested, we pay a fine. With the new law, we would not be freed. He said he doesnt drive due to the risk of being stopped.
Albert Montano, a construction worker from El Salvador, and his two brothers came with a group of construction workers. The law is not fair, Montano said. We are less under the law.
The protesters held colorful handmade signs with messages such as No Human Being is Illegal. The crowd chanted in Spanish íSí se puede! (Yes we can!) and Undocumented, Unafraid throughout the program. Organizers placed a large banner in front of the capitol steps that read, Immigrants Are Welcome Here.
Many high school and middle school students also took the day off. Nallely Solis, 12, a student at Sequoia Middle School in Doraville, said many students from her school had come to the rally. Originally from Mexico, she said, I want freedom from being discriminated against.
We are awakening and willing to fight, said Aurora Flores, a restaurant worker originally from Mexico. I say enough is enough. She brought along her U.S.-born coworker Adam Renner, who said, Im proud to support this fight. The more people that show up makes a difference.
Anthony Allen, 41, a road construction worker who is Black, was on his way to traffic court but stopped by the rally when he heard what it was about. I work with Latinos every day in Alpharetta, he said. Were like family. We all just want to make a living.
Speakers at the rally included Democratic Party politicians, representatives from religious and civil rights organizations, and speakers from Latino, African American, Asian American, Korean American, and Asian Pacific American groups. It also included some employers who depend on the cheaper labor of immigrant workers.
U.S. congressman John Lewis told the crowd he had been arrested dozens of times during the civil rights movement and said it was important to keep fighting and not give up. The Indigo Girls, a folk-rock group, performed.
Jacob Perasso contributed to this article.
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