|Dear Governor Deal:
On behalf of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta (Advancing Justice – Atlanta) and the supporting individuals and organizations that have signed below, we ask you to veto two pieces of anti-immigrant legislation passed in the 2017 Legislative Session: House Bill 37 and House Bill 452. These bills are clear attempts to target immigrant communities and will position Georgia as an unwelcoming state for business, travel, and future immigration.
As laid out in House Bill 37, private universities should not be targeted for providing opportunities to all students, regardless of immigration status. Withholding state and pass-through federal funding would only serve to penalize educators for doing their jobs and protecting their students. As of this bill’s passing, Emory University and others have already stated that they will not pursue sanctuary policies at this time. Additionally, this bill will violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by allowing university officials to disclose a student’s immigration status to law enforcement. This bill is frivolous, can violate federal student privacy laws, and only serves the purpose of intimidating immigrant communities. We respectfully ask you to veto House Bill 37.
Similarly, House Bill 452 raises a wide range of concerns. The bill creates serious privacy concerns by publicly posting personal information on the GBI website. In addition, the bill’s language is overly broad and can be used to target immigrants for minor criminal offenses. Lastly, we are concerned that it conflicts with federal terrorism and national security law.
The bill will create a public registry of noncitizens who have been released from federal custody. Proponents of this bill insist that it will advance public safety by listing the names of illegal aliens who have been convicted of major crimes. However, the category of “alien,” by law, also includes lawful permanent residents and other legal immigrants to the United States, such as international students, and foreign business owners. Additionally, it is unclear under which circumstances someone would be published on this list. Although the information is coming from the Law Enforcement Notification System (LENS), which only reports information on those convicted of certain felonies, we are concerned for future changes to the LENS program and its information sharing. We believe this type of public registry is overly broad and can be used to discriminate against immigrant communities. If this registry were truly for public safety, it would include citizens as well as noncitizens.
In addition, there exists serious privacy concerns with the information that will be publicly posted on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) website. Current LENS notifications contain private personal information including date of birth, identification numbers, and address to which the person was released — often the home of a friend or family member who could be put at risk for targeting. We are concerned that a public registry including a person’s address will lead to increased targeting of individuals who have already served sentences for their crimes. Under the guise of public safety, this can lead to vigilantism against immigrants and their families.
Lastly, House Bill 452 may conflict with federal national security law by expanding the current definition of domestic terrorism and making it broader than the federal definition found in the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act. The United States needs to have a unified national voice on matters of national security, including terrorism. As a matter of policy, states should be wary of making law in an area that is solely within the purview of the federal government.
We at Advancing Justice – Atlanta, and our co-signees, implore you to consider the unintended consequences of legislation that portrays Georgia to be anti-immigrant. Georgia has made great strides to position itself as a leader in the global business community and can continue to attract international business and investment. We respectfully ask that you veto both House Bill 37 and House Bill 452, which were presented to you in this legislative session. Thank you.
Stephanie Cho, Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta