Georgians Are Eager For Immigration Reform

Our guest commentator opines that Georgia's voters have delivered a mandate for transformative solutions to build a vibrant and healthy country which includes a new immigration initiative centered on a path to citizenship that will power America’s economy and keep families together and safe. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In November and again last week, Georgia’s diverse electorate delivered a mandate for transformative solutions to build a vibrant and healthy country which includes a new immigration initiative centered on a path to citizenship that will power America’s economy and keep families together and safe. Across the country, voters came together to overwhelmingly reject anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies that hindered economic growth and destabilized our communities, propelling Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to victory.

At the state and local levels, this mandate manifested itself in a number of ways. For example, we saw electoral losses for two anti-immigrant sheriffs in Gwinnett and Cobb counties who encouraged harmful agreements that mandate local law enforcement to act as federal immigration enforcement entities, which harm immigrant communities and public safety for everyone. And we saw candidates like representative-elect Carolyn Bourdeaux win over suburban voters on a pro-immigrant platform. Ultimately, by rejecting anti-immigrant policies, voters have shown a bold mandate for a new path forward to finally create a humane, working immigration system centered on a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, which has overwhelming bipartisan support from the American people.

This comes after four years of the Trump administration fighting for the implementation of misguided policies such as family separation, child detention, and the dismantling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – actions that only harm our communities and economy. President Trump’s continued action and outspoken promises to tear down the immigration system and immigrant families ultimately failed him in his bid for re-election because at the end of the day, Americans want more immigration – not less.

In fact, a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country is as popular as ever. Three-quarters of Americans – including a majority in both parties – support a pathway to permanent legal status for all undocumented immigrants in this country, including DACA recipients who recently won another court ruling upholding their right to be shielded from deportation. While the ruling is a win for Georgians and for our country, another hearing on the DACA program, which took place on Dec. 22 in Texas, has the potential to terminate these vital protections, jeopardizing the future of thousands of Dreamers who have called Georgia home for decades. The political ping pong that Dreamers and their families are experiencing underscores the need for permanent legislative protections. Meanwhile, young immigrants who are eligible for deportation protections under DACA should consult an attorney right away. Protecting these individuals who know no other home than Georgia is not only an economic necessity – it is our moral obligation.

Immigrants play a crucial role in the Georgia economy and workforce, and are vital to our COVID-19 response. Nearly one in ten Georgia residents is an immigrant, contributing an estimated $9.8 billion in local, state and federal taxes each year. While immigrants are employed across a variety of key industries – from agriculture to healthcare and beyond – about 474,700 foreign-born individuals are participating in the essential workforce, risking their lives as frontline workers to help their communities survive and rebuild from the pandemic. But their contributions go well beyond our economy and workforce, contributing to the diversity, innovation and culture that elevates this great nation and makes the United States more competitive on a global scale.

In a state that generally leans red, Georgia emerged this election year as a swing state for the first time since 1992, with overwhelming support for the Biden-Harris ticket from Black and Latinx communities, a growing majority. Nearly 70% of Latinx voters and 90% of Black voters in Georgia cast their ballots for pro-immigrant President-elect Joe Biden, making a marked difference in our tight election results, and 76% of Latinx voters and 83% of Black voters agree that immigration reform should include an end to family separation, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this country, and a fair process for legal entry.

While the presidential election was an exclamation point on a demand that has been building in America for years, we must continue electing leaders across all levels who will keep families together, preserve DACA, and create an immigration system that allows those seeking a better life to stay and contribute to our nation. Americans are eager for meaningful immigration reform that protects immigrants and establishes a pathway for the undocumented to earn permanent status to benefit Georgia’s communities and economy.