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A message from the LAA regarding the murder in UGA and the GA House Bill 1105

In recent weeks, press coverage of the encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border and the tragic killing of a nursing student on the University of Georgia Campus have shone an unwelcoming spotlight and cast Latinos living in Georgia and throughout the United States in a negative light.

We strongly condemn this horrific murder, and our prayers go out to the family of Laken Riley, who are mourning an unimaginable loss. The person alleged to have killed Laken Riley is reportedly undocumented and from Venezuela. As a result, our Latino community has been targeted and demonized. Certainly, the actions of one person do not reflect a group as a whole. The overwhelming majority of Latinos living in Georgia and the United States are good, decent, and hardworking people who simply are trying to achieve their version of the American Dream.

The Latin American Association supports the community we serve, and we do not want to continue seeing our community demonized, targeted, or profiled on account of their heritage. There are more than 700,000 Latinos in metro Atlanta, and more than 1 million Georgians are Latino. The Atlanta Regional Commission projects that Latinos will grow from 12% to 21% of the metro area’s population by 2050.

Latinos are an integral part of the fabric of the Atlanta area and the state of Georgia.  We are indispensable contributors to Georgia’s economy, including two of the state’s largest industries: agriculture and hospitality. There are numerous Latino professionals who make key contributions daily to every major Atlanta company.

2024 is an election year, and speech and actions tend to be more vitriolic – and less conscious
of the fact that all Georgians and Americans are the descendants of immigrants.

That is why we oppose Georgia House Bill 1105, which mandates statewide cooperation by local law enforcement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal agencies to enforce immigration law, known as 287(g) agreements. We have already seen the damaging effects of 287(g) agreements in communities like Gwinnett, Cobb, and Hall counties, where many victims of crime were afraid to come forward and report crimes out of fear that local law enforcement would refuse to protect undocumented victims, and instead initiate the process of deporting these victims. This law, if passed, would effectively turn the entire state into a 287(g) jurisdiction, erasing all the progress made in immigrant communities in the past few years to encourage victims to report crimes and convince them that local law enforcement is meant to protect victims, and not deport them for wanting to report crimes and obtain protection and safety.

At the LAA, we work to improve the living conditions for everyone in the community, for people to develop their full potential … to contribute to the well-being of the families, not only the Latinos but Georgia as a community. We work for and truly believe that we can overcome any challenge together.

The motto of the state of Georgia is “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.” We urge all Georgians to keep recent events in perspective and keep this state’s motto in mind. We request that Georgians, including state legislators, reflect wisely and act moderately and justly, taking care not to speak or act unreasonably without fully considering the harmful and unintended consequences of their speech and actions.

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