Four Arrested Protesting Regents' Ban on Undocumented Immigrants

Original source: The Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA -- Four activists were arrested at the Georgia State Capitol on Wednesday, November 10, 2010, in protest of the decision by the Board of Regents to ban undocumented immigrants from attending competitive Georgia colleges and universities.

The four activists who committed civil disobedience included Civil Rights Movement veteran Joe Beasley; Rich Pellegrino, of the Cobb Immigration Alliance; Rev. Markel Hutchins, a community activist who challenged US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in the 2008 Democratic Primary; and Adelina Nichols, Executive Director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.

The protest was planned in advance, and took place at the corner of Washington and Trinity. Notice was given to the Atlanta Police and Capitol Police. The activists were processed and issued a citation for obstructing traffic, without having to spend any time in jail or having to post bond.

They will have to appear in court to address the citation on December 03, 2010.

Hutchins coordinated the protest, which he said grew out of a dialogue he convened at the last annual meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference concerning bridging the gap between Black and Hispanic activists.

The discussion focused on "specifically whether an Arizona-style law would have some movement towards Georgia, and if is legitimately a civil rights issue," Hutchins told Atlanta Progressive News.

"When I saw the vote being taken, the decision that was made by the Board of Regents in Georgia, it felt suspicious to me. I believe it's a precursor to Georgia trying to adopt an Arizona-style law that is both regressive and just discriminatory in its nature. I don't want Georgia to be confined to just responding to a measure. We should be in a proactive posture," Hutchins said.

"One of the challenges I face is from African Americans who say to me we have to get ourselves together, we have to be about Black issues first before we can focus on that. I don't have the capacity to segregate my commitment to justice," Hutchins said.

"It was a good cause. I'm glad to be a part of it. We had a nice little witness against what they're doing. Why can't people do some policy sometimes, instead of always wanting to screw somebody up- that's the way our system works, right?" Beasley said.

"Number one, I don't believe there's any such thing as a quote illegal person, I think one of the really destructive elements in society, is this whole notion of nationalism," Beasley said. "As human beings, we should have the ability to go anywhere in the world. I consider myself a citizen of the world."

"When you look the history of this country... not too many years ago, we really took much of the land that was once Mexico.  When they're coming into the land that's Texas, they're just coming back home," Beasley said.

"I guess the thing as an African American, they brought us against our will, we were a nothing people, a beast of burden.  I have empathy with anybody that is struggling anywhere in the world.  This is a justice cause," Beasley said.

"Many of the immigrants are new at civil disobedience and so forth," Beasley said, saying he was trying to pass the activist model on to the next generation.

The action took place as part of a week of actions by the Georgia Dreamers, led by immigrant students and their allies. On Monday, November 08, the students held a rally at the Capitol as well.

"The issue is access to education. We're talking about young people, youth... we've educated people from K-12 and now we're gonna deny them access to higher education?" Pellegrino said.

"They're being scapegoated for our society's budget failures. They came here as young people, they didn't have a choice to be undocumented.  They've done well in school and now they're being banned from colleges," Pellegrino said, adding the only other state with such a ban is South Carolina, which bans undocumented immigrants from all state colleges and universities.

Pellegrino believes that the Republican legislature will consider a statewide ban in the next Session, something he and others plan to oppose.

"I'm a veteran of the old Civil Rights Movement. I got arrested in the old days in the 70s, haven't been arrested since then. I've been advocating for this for some time, for civil disobedience," he said.

Nichols did not immediately return a message left at GLAHR's office seeking comment.

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