State senator breaks with his crowd on immigration

    Amid a tense political climate surrounding immigration, a conservative north Georgia lawmaker offered glowing words about his Latino constituents during an event Tuesday in Atlanta celebrating an immigrant-rights and prison reform lobbying group.

    Speaking at a lunch at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, state Sen. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton) touted the diverse makeup of the 54th District he represents. Payne estimated his district is 42% Latino. He said many of the Latinos living in the district immigrated 25 years ago and “simply want a better life not only for themselves, but for their children and their grandchildren.”

    “The people that I represent are honest, they’re hard-working, seeking to realize the American dream,” said Payne, who quoted Leviticus midway through his speech as well as former President Ronald Reagan’s reference to the Biblical “shining city upon a hill” in his 1989 farewell speech.

    The lunch Payne attended marked the two-year anniversary of opening its Atlanta office. The lobbying group advocates for prison reform, immigrant asylum and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals federal policy. The senator described his work with the group as “a moral imperative and a political obligation to my constituents and the health of our country and economy.”

    Chuck Payne

    Speaking with the Georgia Recorder after the lunch, Payne said he views any political push to remove millions of undocumented persons from the country as impractical. A better approach, he said, is to wait for federal legislators to finally resolve immigration reform and establish firm policy on deferred-action and asylum policy.

    “From blue jeans to search engines and rocket ships, immigrants are responsible for building iconic American companies like Levi Strauss, like Google and like SpaceX,” Payne said. “Companies that capture our imagination and create good-paying jobs.”

    Payne’s views on immigration run counter to those of more hardline Republicans who support tougher enforcement of federal immigration laws. Those hardliners hold a variety of offices in Georgia, from governor to sheriff. Payne opposed state legislation that would have forced Georgia residents who are not American citizens to obtain driver’s licenses clearly stating that they are not citizens. The measure died in committee in part due to Payne’s vote against it.

    Speaking Tuesday, Payne said the requirement would have created more technical issues than the state should have to handle and likely would have been illegal. But his stance prompted criticism from a challenger vying for his 54th District seat, Scott Tidwell, who accused Payne of having “aligned with the left-wing Democrats at our state capitol on the issue of illegal immigration,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. Payne defeated Tidwell by less than 3 percent of the vote last year to win the district seat spanning just east of Atlanta up to the Tennessee line.

    Otherwise, Payne leans staunchly conservative. He voted last year in favor of state legislation allowing adoption agencies to deny adoptions based on religious reasons and a bill banning abortion once a heartbeat is detected.

    On policy matters, Payne said laws relating to immigration should be the purview of federal lawmakers, not the Georgia General Assembly. But philosophically, Payne contends immigrants, even those who remain undocumented, are “part of the fabric now.”

    “They’re part of the nation,” he said Tuesday. “They’re part of the melting pot.”

    Beau Evans
    Beau Evans has covered local and state government and breaking news in New Orleans and California. He’s reported on immigration issues, the threat of rising seas to coastal areas, public safety and hurricanes. At The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Evans detailed the critical role government plays to ensure that people in a community have access to clean water and other public needs. In 2018, his investigative reporting revealed top officials at New Orleans’ cash-poor water utility dealt themselves huge raises, prompting several to resign. Evans’ prior reporting was in West Marin north of San Francisco for The Point Reyes Light. Evans is an Atlanta native who graduated with honors from The Lovett School and is an honors graduate of North Carolina’s Davidson College. Beau was with the Georgia Recorder until January 4th, 2020.


    1. I appears Sen. Payne is lumping illegal aliens in with lawful immigrants, and I’m sure he knows very well the difference. The corporations he cites do bring in aliens on work visas, most are receiving temporary visas. Supposedly these corporations bring these immigrants in, because of the lack of Americans to do particular jobs.

      Illegal aliens don’t work for these corporations, they mainly work in the service and agriculture industries. Almost every illegal alien adult seeking to work have to commit at least one or two felonies. The crime comes about when they obtain either stolen ID, or obtained from illicit document manufacturers. Buying the ID is a felony and using it to obtain employment is also a felony. Many of these documents have real social security numbers, belonging to Americans or lawful immigrants.

      Sen. Payne needs to understand the base purpose of American immigration laws is to protect American workers, and protect our national security. Sen. Payne should be looking out for his legal immigrant and American born constituents and spend less time promoting illegal immigration.

      • Robert, i think what he is saying is that the federal government should stop playing politics with immigration and come up with a responsible immigration policy. The National Republican party just pushes fear to rouse votes and offers no feasible policy ideas for immigration or healthcare. We should be demanding policies from our representatives to address these issues.

        • Excellent response. As it is now, the policy does not work for the immigrants legal or illegal nor for the employers. We need a sensible policy for workers to come do the labor that is needed.

      • This may give more in-depth clarity as to what is really going on via President Trump’s immigration agenda. From “Reuters,” August 12, 2019, 11:03 pm:

        “ ‘The Trump administration is trying to bypass Congress and implement its own merit based-immigration system. It’s really a backdoor way of prohibiting low-income people from immigrating,’ said Charles Wheeler of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc.
        The rule is part of Republican Trump’s efforts to curb both legal and illegal immigration, an issue he has made a cornerstone of his presidency. . . .”


        Donald Trump’s vision is a hierarchical one, based on both classism and racism, as I see it. America was formed on the assertion that “all are created equal,” an egalitarian nation, in design. Businessman and mercenary Donald Trump does not share in that egalitarian vision for America. That is truth stated, not political spin.

    2. Senator Payne is attempting to create a “melting pot” with bad ingredients that will spoil the dinner and make everyone sick.

    3. These are families, not Gang members, not bad hombres. The road to citizenship has been made too difficult and too expensive. Often Immigrants become illegal waiting to become legal. Fix the Immigration laws.

      • Well said. We need to recognize that most of the immigrants here are families now and not gang members. We need to concentrate on identifying the difference in the two groups. We really need these immigrants to do much work in this country and they need to have a process to be here working legally while working on citizenships.

    4. Regarding President Donald Trump in terms of his influence over immigration matters in Georgia (and in other states such as Mississippi), the President is a person who thinks in generalities and stereotypes, and one who lacks a heart, as can be seen through his actions and through his words. Those are the reasons for his particular policies.

      It may be time to support Kamala Harris for President so that Donald Trump can stand face to face with her in a national debate whereby clarity of what he is cannot be denied.

    5. I will remember the name of state senator, Chuck Payne (R). He is one of the good guys who places people above politics.

      I thank God that the citizens of Georgia are beginning to see, well, into political spin and are now calling inhumanity and immorality exactly what they are.

    6. Payne is taking money from, a lobbyist group funded by billionaires who want slave labor.

      Payne needs to lose his office, immediately.

    7. Chuck Payne has done more for Georgia than anyone else. Would you kill a child on purpose or accident ? If you just turn them away your not sure , I wouldn’t take the chance would you if so your pretty sorry. Chuck’s doing the right thing you don’t just hide the problem you fix it . Unless your not intelligent enough like you seem to be. My mato Many have problems I have solutions. Good job

    8. This is sickening. Chuck Payne is one of the weakest and slowest members of the state senate. He has surrendered to the billionaires who want cheap foreign labor while he quotes the bible and Ronald Reagan. Does anyone who knows him think he actually wrote any part of the speech he delivered to the high rollers? It doesn’t take much imagination to see how he got elected after reading the ignorant comments here from the voters who can apparently quote every nugget of fake news on illegal immigration spewed out by the liberal news media. Guess what? The “policy” on immigration is supposed to be set by the laws passed by congress. The laws in place say we secure the borders and regulate who comes in and who doesn’t. Chuck Payne will be in the first group to switch to Democrat. We are legal immigrants. This is disgusting!


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