Human Rights Summer

On Independence Day, as we light fireworks, flip hamburgers on the grill, and celebrate our country's two centuries of freedom, it's worth remembering that the vast majority of Americans that have enriched our history don't descend directly from the colonists who threw off the yoke of British rule. Most of them arrived poor from far off lands and mistrusted by their new American neighbors, hoping and working for a better life than the one they left behind. And so it is today for immigrants in the state of Georgia, where the state legislature passed a blatantly anti-immigrant bill that gives the state sweeping powers to stop and detain citizens and non-citizens alike if they cannot prove their citizenship when stopped by police, and to jail people for aiding undocumented workers in any way. But immigrants and allies in Georgia are fighting back. On Friday, Hispanic businesses and workers participated in a "Day without Immigrants" by closing their doors and not coming into work. The aim was to show Georgia by their absence what a major part of the economic and social life immigrants have become in the state. And on Saturday, between eight and fourteen thousand immigrants and their allies in the human rights, faith and labor communities rallied around the Georgia state capitol. Families decried the fact that they would be broken up, legal residents who "looked foreign" protested that they might be detained if they didn't carry documentation at all times, and civil rights activists from older generations supported their brothers and sisters against attacks against all people of color.

"You are my brothers and my sisters," Reverend Tim McDonald told the crowd. "Some years ago, they told people like me we couldn't vote. We did what you are doing today. We are going to send a message to the powers that be ... that when the people get united, there is no government that can stop them. Don't let them turn you around."

The events of this weekend are part of a kickoff for a Human Rights Summer in Georgia. Immigration activists have organized a boycott/buycott in the state, where immigrants and allies refuse to buy from stores that cooperate with the new law. Instead, they will only buy from stores that signal their unwillingness to cooperate with law enforcement that harasses customers and employees over their suspected immigration status. Immigrants have also pointed out that they are being demonized while the real problems in the state are continually being ignored. The foreclosure crisis and continued job crisis haven't been addressed with any serious efforts, while the legislature found plenty of time to crank out a harsh bill that attacks immigrants and anyone who has regular contact with them, potentially even nuns driving a van full of immigrants to Mass.

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