The site across from Cumberland Mall is 300 yards from U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ office and 3 miles from U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office, according to D.A. King, president of the Cobb-based Dustin Inman Society, a group that advocates for immigration reform.
King called the demonstration a one-hour, lunchtime rally directed at elected officials who refuse to listen to citizens about an amnesty bill that is headed to the Senate this month after passing out of committee.
King said he was proud of the turnout for an event that organizers started planning Sunday and credited area tea party groups with the event’s success.
“Today there were pro-enforcement Americans of all descriptions expressing outrage,” King said.
The bipartisan measure would create a pathway for illegal immigrants to obtain legal residency after paying a penalty of up to $500 and any back taxes owed.
“We know the language of the bill even if they don’t,” King said.
King said the amnesty legislation would remove the illegal status from immigrants and allow them to remain in the country.
American workers deserve much better than the “open border” bill that would allow 33 million job seekers to enter the United States over the next 10 years, King said.
King added there is no requirement for immigrants to learn English before becoming legalized.
King said the bill does not focus on the prevention of illegal immigration.
“It doesn’t have border security first,” he said.
King said the bill also allows for slush funds for “radical groups” like the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, the National Council of LaRaza, and the ACLU..
But King said his biggest concern is that if the legislation is approved, deportations would halt for six months while new policies are put in place.
If the illegal status of the immigrants is removed, it would give them access to various benefits that would result in a staggering rise in costs to state and local government agencies, King said.
Two weeks ago, 8,800 signatures on a petition against the bill were delivered to both the offices of Chambliss and Isakson, according to King.
A meeting was scheduled with Isakson’s chief of staff, Chris Carr, but King said he was told it was canceled.
Carr said, in an email Friday, that because of interactions with King back in 2007, he would not attend the meeting if King was present.
King said Isakson will face losing re-election if he votes for the proposed immigration reform, or even supports a debate of the bill by the Senate.
“He would have a very assured primary opponent, and I think even more than one,” King said.
At the Georgia GOP convention in Athens, every single candidate running for Chambliss’ soon-to-be open seat “made it well known they did not support the amnesty bill,” King said.
Rich Pellegrino, director of the Cobb Immigrant Alliance, said Republican legislators in Georgia have been forced to take extreme positions on immigration in the past.
A firm stance during the primary can cost a candidate to lose the general election at a time when the Republican Party is trying to be more inclusive of all types, not just white men, said Pellegrino.
Pellegrino said his organization is willing to sit down with King to work for a solution for all.
Pellegrino said there must be a balance between protecting jobs and giving a pathway to legalization for 11 million immigrants who haven’t committed any serious crimes.
But, Pellegrino added that it is hard to compromise when an “outspoken minority,” which is against reform of any kind, hinders progress.
“They don’t want them, period. Any shape, any form,” Pellegrino said.
Pellegrino said statements about the cost to government agencies is a scare tactic, and added that immigrants contribute more to the economy than they receive from government programs.
The current immigration reform bill in the Senate leaves holes and a more comprehensive plan is needed, according to Pellegrino.
He added that the proposed legislation does nothing to cut the cost of border security that funds private contractors and security firms.
“It is a billion-dollar industry that is siphoning off money,” Pellegrino said.
Pellegrino said the United States has never had a more secure border, and the increase in allocated money should be a concern for fiscally conservative groups.
Isakson’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press time. When the MDJ asked Isakson how he intends to vote on the bill last month, he said, “We’re not going to prejudge what the final version is going to be until it’s marked up, debated and amended — so any question that precludes that process taking place is premature.”
Isakson did draw a line in the sand in that same interview on one aspect of the proposed immigration bill. “Border security is the trigger for anything else being done, that’s correct,” he said
An earlier version of this story mistakenly quoted Mr. King as saying that the NAACP was a radical group that would benefit from a government slush fund under the amnesty law. It should have said the ACLU. We regret the error.