5 Georgia immigration storylines to watch in 2023

In this Sept. 15, 2020, file photo, Dawn Wooten, left, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, speaks at a news conference in Atlanta protesting conditions at the immigration jail.

Jeff Amy / AP Photo

1. How will the Kensington StationSoccer team grow?

StationSoccer partners with MARTA to get kids into club sports who otherwise might not have access to practice or games because of prohibitive costs or transportation. In 2022, StationSoccer opened a soccer pitch at MARTA’s Kensington Station, a short bus ride from Clarkston. Kids who grew up playing soccer before they moved to Clarkston as either immigrants or refugees now have a team that I personally am rooting for. You know those kids are incredible players!

2. Will state legislators pass in-state tuition for DACA recipients and other protected immigrants?

Two separate pieces of legislation that would allow in-state tuition for different groups of immigrants and refugees failed last year in the Georgia legislature. One would allow DACA recipients, many of whom have spent a majority of their lives growing up in Georgia, to get in-state tuition to state institutions. The other would allow in-state tuition for refugees immediately upon arriving in the U.S. Lawmakers were intentional about including Afghans who are in the U.S. and have protected status because they helped the U.S. military at the risk of their own lives in Afghanistan. There is bipartisan interest in both pieces of legislation. 

3. How will Georgia’s new hate crimes law be used in the spa shooter trial and what precedent could that set?

Fulton County will hear the case against the man charged with killing six Asian women in Atlanta-area spas in March 2021. He already pleaded guilty to murder charges in Cherokee County and is serving a life sentence there. 

The trial was supposed to begin in October but attorneys asked for more time to prepare. This is the first time Georgia’s new hate crime law will apply to a Fulton County case. The law allows the prosecutors to seek extra penalties if the crime was found to be motivated by factors like racism or misogyny. 

The shooter faces the death penalty in Fulton County.

4. How will Georgia’s many nonprofits continue to support immigrants and refugees in their new lives here?

Across the state, and very much so in the metro, nonprofits, businesses and advocacy groups have robust programs to empower new Georgians. Some that are top of mind include the Latin American Association’s business incubator program for women entrepreneurs and a partnership with the Refugee Women’s Network and International Community School Atlanta to retrain professionals as teachers to help both build community for newcomers and address the teacher shortage. 

5. Will there be more state or federal intervention into Georgia’s ICE detention facilities? 

In 2021, ICE ended its contract with Irwin Detention Center after a federal whistleblower complaint alleged widespread sexual abuse against female detainees. In 2022, formerly detained women reported sexual abuse at Stewart Detention Center. 

There is a large, ongoing federal investigation into Irwin, and advocates have been calling on state representatives and Congress to deeply investigate Stewart. I’m keeping my eye out to see what kinds of restitutions are developed for these women and what larger systemic change might come out of these investigations.

This is part of WABE’s Storylines To Watch In 2023 series. Click here to see which storylines WABE reporters are watching on their beats — including arts and culture, criminal justice, education, the environment, health, housing and politics — so you’re in-the-know on what the year may bring.