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Ga. Advocates Support Biden’s Immigration Plans, Want To See More

President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House. For many in Georgia, Biden’s immigration policies are a huge sigh of relief.
President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House. For many in Georgia, Biden’s immigration policies are a huge sigh of relief.
Credit Evan Vucci / Associated Press
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Updated at 11 a.m. Jan. 28

Advocates in Georgia support the latest measures by President Joe Biden on immigration.

Within his first hours in office, Biden reversed policies of the Trump administration. That includes rescinding a travel ban from some majority-Muslim and African countries, pausing deportations and halting construction on the border wall.

For many in Georgia, Biden’s policies are a huge sigh of relief. 

But Azka Mahmood, communications and outreach director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says these policies are just a first step.

“The work is just beginning,” Mahmood says on repealing the travel ban. “Because the harm from this policy is so far-reaching. There’s been so many other policies that have been harming American Muslims and immigrants across the board.”

Other issues she’d like to see the new administration address include systemic racism in policing.  

Biden also paused some deportations for 100 days for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country before November. During the halt, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will review policies around enforcement.

“We welcome the pause on deportations at this time to ensure people have due process,” says Jerry Gonzalez, CEO of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, or GALEO.

Advocates also want to see an end to a pipeline that leads to deportation in the first place.

Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director of Project South, wants an end to the 287(g) program. That program allows local police to enforce federal immigration law. That includes checking a resident’s immigration status. Critics of the program say it leads to racial profiling and fear of law enforcement. Cobb and Gwinnett counties have already ended the program

“So the new sheriffs ended 287(g) and that’s really a positive effect,” says Shahshahani. “But that’s something that needs to happen on the national scale. And that is something that the Biden administration can go ahead and do.”

Others in Georgia want to see more protections for immigrant essential workers. Workers on farms and meat-processing plants are disproportionately at risk of contracting COVID-19. 

“During COVID, we’ve seen that these are mass sites of spreading in respect to COVID,” says Shelly Anand, executive director of Sur Legal Collaborative in Georgia. “And these workers don’t feel safe coming forward.”

Anand wants to see stronger whistleblower protections so workers don’t fear retaliation. She also wants the new Congress to pass the Fairness for Farmworkers Act. It would repeal the exemption from overtime pay in certain agricultural industries.

Biden also proposes an eight-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Gonzalez, of GALEO, says Americans have been looking for leadership on immigration for a long time.

“We do hope our congressional members will take the opportunity to help move us forward by providing a path to citizenship for many essential workers in Georgia,” he says.