It doesn’t matter what your legal status is in Georgia, if you are Latino the anti-immigrant frenzy there will affect you, or so said Jerry Gonzalez, the Executive Director of Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. News Taco spoke to Gonzalez recently and found that the situation on the ground in that state is toxic for Latinos — from the KKK to the folks at the grocery store to the DMV — regardless of their legal status.
Gonzalez himself is a native Texan and has said that everyone from people like himself to Puerto Ricans (also U.S. citizens) to professionals to Spanish speakers to professionals are suffering under the weight of the anti-Latino sentiment woven into Georgia’s current anti-immigrant climate. If you ask Gonzalez, it’s all part of Georgia’s tortured history with race.
“I think in Georgia particularly, the issue of immigration touches on deep-seated racial divisions that Georgia has not dealt with. There’s still a lot of racial division in Georgia under the surface, I think what (anti-immigrant legislation) has done is essentially brought it back out,” Gonzalez told News Taco.
“It is dealt with more openly now but it is okay to deal with it this way because we’re talking about ‘legal’ versus ‘illegal.’ So there’s a framework for being able to talk about a certain segment of the population and disparriage them openly.”
He added that in the past 18 months, three KKK rallies focused on the “Latino invasion.”
GALEO started eight years ago and since Gonzalez told us significant changes have taken place there. Latinos are now 8.8% of the state’s population, about one in 10 Georgians, 20% in Atlanta. That’s almost a million people total. So what happens when you begin to see these types of changes in a place traditionally polarized along black-white lines?
The bottom line, Gonzalez told News Taco, is that if these are the stories being reported by Latino professionals in Georgia, imagine the stories that aren’t being told by the immigrant or undocumented population there. “These are just the things that we know about,” he told us. “In the broader immigrant community, one can only imagine. This is the tip of the iceberg.”
Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD
[Photo Courtesy Library of Congress]