September 16th, 2011
HB 87, Georgia’s Arizona-Style Law, Is Not About Race?

By Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO)

Just a few weeks ago, our state leaders appointed an all-white male panel to enforce HB87, Georgia’s new Arizona-style law.  The Immigration Enforcement Review Board was part of the legislation and will be empowered with ensuring enforcement of the new law with local governments and state agencies across the state.  The lack of diversity is one thing on this Board; but the inclusion of Phil Kent, member of a hate group, is truly troubling and raises serious questions about Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s intentions about the appointment of Kent.

It reminds me of something my parents frequently told me growing up, “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.”

All throughout the debate on HB87, legislators made claims that HB87 was about enforcing the “rule of law.”  Despite the concerns many individuals and organizations raised about racial profiling and creating a racially divisive environment for our state, Georgia’s legislative leadership and our Governor kept claiming that the new law was about equal enforcement of the law and not about race or ethnicity at all.  Many of their claims were coupled with an “enforce the law” concept followed by a “welcoming of legal immigrants” statement.

The charade was not to last too long.  A glimpse into some of the real sentiment underneath the veneer of the “rule of law” mantra became noticeable with Georgia Senator Renee Unterman’s (R-Buford) rant in the Senate during the last day of the Legislature.   In her speech, Unterman embarrassed herself and our state, but she also unmasked the uncomfortable reality of some of Georgia’s elected officials’ views on the changing demographics of our state.

Unterman moaned about the demographic changes which Gwinnett County has undergone and attributed many of those changes to undocumented immigrants without providing any statistics or verifiable information.  According to the 2010 Census, Latinos make up over 20% of the county’s population, while accounting for 28% of the state’s overall population growth.  “We don’t mind taking care of our people; let’s just take care of our own people,” she said in the Georgia Senate.  As if these code words were not clear enough, she then further added, “I don’t want to take care of Mexico’s people.”  The glimpse of the racial undertones had become more apparent with the Unterman speech.

Following the signing and defense of HB87 in federal court, the state maintained this was about the “rule of law.”  However, then came the appointment of the Immigration Enforcement Review Board.  Between the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House, neither of them could find any non-white candidates to this Board.  I would like to see if they even considered any diverse candidates.  The all white Board harkens back to a dark time in Georgia’s history of Jim Crow; however, I suppose the time has evolved to call it “Jose Crow” in 2011.  But the addition of Phil Kent, a person with extremist anti-immigrant views and questionable cozy relationships with hate groups truly does peel back another layer of the racial undertones with HB87.

Kent’s affiliations with hate groups that produce videos and propaganda that utilize offensive and even racist imagery to depict immigration are deplorable.  Kent’s opinion pieces have been published with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist hate group that believes ‘mixing the races is rebelliousness against God’ and that has described black people as a ‘retrograde species of humanity.’  Kent is also part of ProEnglish, which was created by John Tanton, the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement. John Tanton has said he believes that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”  Do these types of views or group affiliations sound like someone who would have an objective mind in enforcing a controversial new state law that specifically targets the Latino and immigrant communities?

Phil Kent and I have sparred at many public forums and debates across the state.  During some of these debates, I have questioned and challenged his extreme views.  Phil Kent is entitled to his opinion and his own views on race.  However, it becomes more important to question someone’s views especially when that person has been appointed by a Governor to a position of authority on the Immigration Enforcement Review Board.  It is more important to further question how the person with these extreme views will fulfill their role in a nondiscriminatory manner against immigrants and Latinos living and working in our State.  Maybe that was part of the plan.

Surely, Governor Nathan Deal was aware of Kent’s views before the Governor appointed Kent to the Board.  Now, the Governor does not want to talk about Kent’s appointment nor justify the serious questions of the extreme views of his appointment with any type of response to the public.  The Kent appointment and the Governor’s silence further reveal the true nature of HB87 and its serious racial considerations—and Georgia’s leaders’ unease with the significant changing demographics.  Despite all of the swirling controversy and the serious questions, Phil Kent remaining on the Immigration Enforcement Review Board does mean that Governor Nathan Deal condones the racial implications of HB87; furthermore and more troubling is that Kent remaining on the Board also implies that Governor Nathan Deal is comfortable with Kent’s extreme views to be a part of the deliberations of the Board.   Phil Kent remaining on the Immigration Enforcement Review Board of HB87 will only continue to be a distraction and will undermine the Board’s ability to do it’s work in an unbiased manner.

Actions do speak louder than words. Clearly, Governor Deal has made a serious mistake in the appointment of Phil Kent.

So far, it turns out that HB87 had a lot to do with race after all.

The next move is yours, Governor Deal.

Please encourage anyone you know who will stand up for fairness and justice to sign onto this petition to have Phil Kent removed. For more information on Phil Kent’s questionable and extremist views, please read the following link.

9 thoughts on “HB 87, Georgia’s Arizona-Style Law, Is Not About Race?

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  5. Mensaje para todos los Latinos que se quejan de racismo. La majoria de Latinos aqui en estados Unidos estamos cansados de La Raza y otras organizaciones Latinas que dicen que trabajan por los Latinos. La verdad es que trabajan por el poder politico. Estas organizaciones han hecho imposible una reforma migratoria, no podemos hacer nada por la fuerza, podemos obtener el apoyo de muchos Americanos, cuando seamos parte de la solucion del problema en nuestra comunidades. Sabia usted que la majoria de Latinos son una carga economica para los contrubuyentes de impuesto, sabia usted que muchas jovenes resultan enbarasadas y el estado tienen que mantener a sus hijos por que ellos no lo pueden hacer. sabia usted que millones de Latinos no pagan nada de income tax por que tienen muchos hijos.
    sabia usted que muchos Latinos estan en welfare y el estado les provee con millones de Dolares en estampillas para comida, asistencia medica y otros servicios, sabia usted que la majoria de delinquentes en las carceles son Latinos, sabia usted que miles de Latinos son traficantes de droga y manejan la prostitucion de latinas en estados unidos. sabia usted que hay millones de Latinos que son honestos y trajadores que detestan a esa clase de jente que biene a este pais y nos da el mal nombre por ser delincuentes. Lo que nosotros los Latinos tenemos que admitir, es;  que es nuestra responsabilidad de limpiar nuestra comunidades, eradicar la delincuencia, educarnos para no ser una carga publica y establecer en nuestra comunidad una imajen positiva la cual diga Latinos es lo mejor de este pais.
    En realidad nos falta mucho, pero la ignorancia nos gana y somos utilizados por grupos politicos que nos usan para avansar en su ambision politicas solamente; dispierta Latino no es racismo es el caracter que has proyectado por muchos años y la imajen que te has formado. entre los mismos si eres un don nadie nuestra misma gente discriminamos y peor que los gringos. Mexico y el resto de los paises Latino Americano son mas racistas que los Americanos, y el trato que dan alos delincuentes es de lo peor, te sacan la verdad a puro golpe y hasta te matan, y benimos aqui a demandar justicia y derechos que en nuestra propios paises no hemos tenido los cojones de hacernos respetar. Actualmente mileas de Mexicanos estan uyendo de Mexico, pero nadie tiene los cojones para luchar en contra el narco trafico que esta destruyendo Mexico. Los Pepes en Colombia destruyo el narco trafico. Fujimori en Peru destruyo el sendero luminoso, pero calderon y los Mexicanos corren de sus deberes y bienen aqui a destruir lo que este pais representa. Estamos cansados de esto. por favor trabajen y ganense el respeto de la comunidad Americana. A la fuerza nada,  no en nuestro pais. Y no nos equivoquemos nuestro problema no es immigracion legal, es la immigracion ilegal que los promotores de esta invasion tratan de justificar con acusaciones de racismo y que estamos en contra de Latinos, por que no es la verdad.

  6. since when do hispanics give a sh-t about the rule of law the majority of them aid and abet their illegal family members so its no surprise they are claiming profiling. when every thing else fails those people resort to the old played out and used up claim of racism.

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