“Education, not Segregation!”: Cedar Shoals High School Students in Athens, GA, Organize Rally Condemning Arizona Copycat HB 87

Concerned with the University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ recent approval of Policy 4.1.6, which denies access to higher education to undocumented students, and the Georgia General Assembly’s passage of House Bill 87, also referred to as the “Arizona copycat” or the “Show Me Your Papers” bill, Cedar Shoals High School students formed the group Ambitious for Equal Rights (AFER). It will hold a rally this Friday (April 29, 2011) at 6 PM at The University of Georgia Arch in Athens, GA, with the demand of “Education, not Segregation!”

The Cedar Shoals students are experiencing firsthand the general anti-immigrant climate these policies are helping create. One student, a senior, expressed profound dismay in having limited options after high school because of the Regents policy. “We can’t be like other students who have papers, who are excited to go to UGA and other universities,” she said. “You just feel left out, especially now that I’m a senior and everybody’s asking what college you’re going to.” The students also attested to their families’ fear of leaving their homes because of the possibility of police stopping them. The practice will only continue and grow if HB 87 goes into effect.

AFER formed after several students coordinated wearing T-shirts in protest of the Regents ban and HB 87. One student held a Mexican flag over a hallway from a floor above. In the end, about three or four students were suspended. Despite this setback, the students have decided to organize a rally and reach out to their peers and other community members.

The Board of Regents passed Policy 4.1.6 out of concern that undocumented students were taking spots from legal residents and U.S. citizens at the state’s five research institutions. There are a total of 501 undocumented students in the entire University System of Georgia, and they pay out-of-state tuition.

HB 87 will bring disastrous consequences to the Athens community. Empowering local police officers and sheriffs to act as ICE agents, the law will tear apart families and make it more difficult for immigrants without documentation to secure jobs to support their families. Many immigrant families have both documented and undocumented members. HB 87 also criminalizes allies who aid immigrants by giving them rides or places to stay. Our families and economies will be strained by this bill.

We urge all concerned community members to attend the rally and stand in solidarity with AFER as it fights for justice. As one student organizer said, “A lot of times we don’t stand up for ourselves in school. But now we do care. Because we don’t want to feel like we can’t stand up for ourselves because you’re Latino. We’re doing this to let people know that they shouldn’t be scared, that we should stand up for ourselves.”

Join the students at the University of Georgia Arch in downtown Athens, GA, at 6pm, Friday, April 29, 2011.

The AIRC is a community-based group encompassing many religious-, civic- and university-based organizations that are working collectively to support and organize the immigrant community in Athens in the face of discriminatory laws. Our groups include Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens, Georgia Students for Public Higher Education, the Economic Justice Coalition, Casa de Amistad, Amnesty International @ UGA, Ven Peru, the Battery, the UGA Living Wage Coalition, and Athens Professional Services.

Find our Facebook event at http://tinyurl.com/sisepuedeathens

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