Curt Thompson Teodoro Maus press conference article

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Li­deres afro americanos y latinos repudian comentarios de Perdue

(Monday, 18 September 2006) -

ATLANTA. Latinos, blackleaders assail Perdue's immigration remark

ATLANTA. A coalition of Latinos and black community leaders criticized anti-immigrant remarks made recently by Gov. Sonny Perdue and called on the governor to retract the comment andapologize to Georgians.The group, which calls itself the Coordinating Council of Community Leaders, also sent a letter to Perdue protesting what they called "slanders" made by the governor against undocumented immigrants living in Georgia.

Perdue made the comment on Sept. 6 during a news conference to announce a new state effort to crack downon immigrants who use false documents to fraudulently obtain driver's licenses and other forms of official identification.

"It is simply unacceptable for people to sneak into this country illegally on Thursday, get a government-issued ID on Friday, head to the welfare office on Monday and go vote on Tuesday," Perdue said, a remark that outraged many Latino leaders.

"Governor Perdue, you need to retract those statements you have made," said Jerry Gonzalez, director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), at a capitol news conference Monday. "We demand and expectan apology to the entire immigrant community and every resident of Georgia."

Teodoro Maus, the former Mexican consul general in Atlanta, said Perdue's comment about immigrants contained "falsehoods of such a dimension that can only lead to prejudice and discrimination" against Latino residents. "You can win reelection without having to use immigrantsas a scapegoat," Maus said.

Perdue's media spokespeople did not immediately respond to the charges made against the governor at the news conference. Dr. Joseph Lowery, a renowned civil rights figure and the retired head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was one of several black leaders who showed support of the Latino community at the news conference. "I'm here because of course we have a human alliance," Lowery said. "What does it say about us as a people? This is America. I'm disturbed that we're becoming something we ought not become." Ajamu Baraka, executivedirector of the US Human Rights Network, accused Perdue of "using racist rhetoric just to win an election . . . we're going to call it what it is it is unmitigated racism. We can do better than this." "SEIU will stand with our brothers in the Latino community and continue to fight to secure their rights," said Ralph Williams, the African-American president of the local Service Employees International Union. "Any union should be standing with our brown brothers because they are workers."

Almost all of the speakers at the news conference agreed there was a need to reform U.S. immigration policy, a divisive issue that Congress has not been able to reach agreement upon this year."We absolutely need and have to have comprehensive immigration reform because it's responsible governing," said state Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Norcross), who represents a Gwinnett County district with a large immigrant population. "When words are used to win elections, not solve problems, it doesn't help my district," Thompson said, adding that Perdue was "simply using scapegoats to win an election."

Later on, Gov. Perdue's press spokesperson, Heather Hedrick, said "Governor Perdue believes we owe the taxpayers of Georgia the assurance that state resources and privileges are not going to those who are here illegally. The Georgia SecureID program will ensure that illegal immigrants who use fake documents to get a genuine state ID arecaught and prosecuted." "As he's said many times before, Governor Perdue embraces legal immigrants to Georgia. Weare a welcoming state, and we're known for our hospitality, but we won't welcome those who come here illegally and break our laws."