Hispanic community holds Atlanta protest over illegal immigration bill; protests could come to Augusta

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Protestors in Georgia hoped to show the economic impact of the Hispanic community both in the workforce and in spending powers after House lawmakers passed a bill that would crack down on illegal immigration.

Senate bill 529 would deny state services to immigrants living in Georgia illegally.

It would also create a five percent surcharge on wire transfers of money from illegal immigrants to their families in their home country.

They called it a "day of dignity". Local Hispanic leaders say this is a test run for Atlanta only and if it proves successful, they'll spread it throughout the state of Georgia.

Here in Augusta, it was business as usual.

But some local Hispanic leaders say that may be the calm before the storm.

"It's scary," says Felipe Mata, the owner of the popular Mexican restaurant, Teresa's.

"This is the worst legislation in the history of Georgia," says Anibel Ibarra, Hispanic activist.

His nightmare? A bill that may soon become a law allowing drastic changes to the state's immigration laws by denying state services to illegal immigrants and imposing a five percent surcharge on wire transfers from illegals.

"Here it's criminalizing immigration, it's not solving the problem," he says.

Supporters argue it's a vital homeland security measure that frees up limited services for Georgia residents legally entitled to them.

But Felipe Mata says it only creating more discrimination by targeting Hispanic-owned businesses like his.

"One time, immigration came all the way from Atlanta to my restaurant here to check on me, but they don't go nowhere else," Mata says.

Critics also argue the government contradicts itself by using the immigrants to help the economy but then denying them any benefits.

"You are calling workers to move the economy then you say no, no, no," Ibarra says.

"Think about it. How many immigrants in the state pay taxes?" asks Mata.

He credits the rise of his business to the hard-working immigrants, and foresees a fall without them.

Hispanic leaders are hoping if the bill passes, the governor will hear their concerns and veto the bill.

The bill is now heading to a conference committee to await approval before going to Governor Perdue for his signature.