The Brown Codes of Georgia: Black Agenda Report

This is really quite disturbing, how Arizona has become a source of toxic legislation to the rest of the nation. Sorry, folks.


Georgia: The Next Show Me Your Papers State?
By Bruce A. Dixon
Created 03/16/2011 – 11:59
Submitted by Bruce A. Dixon on Wed, 03/16/2011 – 11:59

If some racist Georgia politicians have their way, Georgia will be the next “show me your papers” state. Legislation has already passed in the GA House that will criminalize the everyday activity of undocumented persons, further isolate and stigmatize them, and allow any yahoo with a computer and legal forms standing to sue police departments, judges, city and state officials and agencies who fail to enforce these laws with sufficient rigor and viciousness. Sign the petition demanding GA governor Nathan Deal veto Georgia’s proposed Brown Codes, and your signature will be presented to the governor’s office on March 24, Georgia’s Day of Truth & Dignity.

Last week Georgia’s House of Representatives passed a package of laws that so out-does Arizona’s B 1070 for racist meanness and overreach that some are calling them the Brown Codes [8], after the post-Civil War Black Codes [9] of the 19th century. Like their namesakes, the new Brown Codes are designed to stigmatize, isolate and criminalize an entire community. But while 19th century laws could be written to specifically apply to former slaves, Africans, descendants of Africans, and anybody with visible African heritage, 21st century custom obliges even the most blatant apartheid laws to maintain a veneer of color blindness in their language, while their application and results are carefully calculated to single out targeted communities.

1. Georgia’s proposed Brown Codes [8] write the racist slur “illegal aliens [10]” into state law;

In the spirit of racist American white nationalism, Georgia’s Brown Codes create a class of person it calls — specifically in the legislation — “illegal aliens [10].” This is exactly the same as tacking some degrading adjective onto the n-word, and writing that racist calumny into state law. As we and many others have said elsewhere, the term “illegal aliens [10]” is a dehumanizing and racist slur, the kind of thing civilized people should not allow friends, enemies, or total stragers to utter in their hearing without fear of reproach or correction.

The purposeful logic of the “illegal alien” slur is to deprive targeted people of their humanity, to declare them “aliens” rather than humans, so that they can be made “illegal.” After all, even the most racist American xonophobes sometimes find it hard to make their mouths say “illegal person” or ‘illegal humans.” But now, under Georgia’s Brown Codes, humans unable to prove their immigration status to a doctor before treatment, to a school official upon enrollment, to a taxi driver on the way to work, or to a law enforcement officer for any reason or no reason at all are to stripped of their human rights because they are no longer humans. They become what the legislation specifically calls “illegal aliens,” the legal prey of citizens and bereft of most of the rights of humans.

2. Georgia’s proposed Brown Codes [8] create a series of new, immigration-related felonies;

Look for a job, go to jail!

UnderGeorgia’s proposed Brown Codes, applying for a job with a false ID will become a felony punishable by one to five years in prison for the first offense, and three to twenty years in prison for the second offense. If the name or social security number on the ID is that of an actual person, living or dead it becomes “aggravated identity fraud”, a one to ten year stretch the first offense and a three to fifteen for each additional count. The law further specifies that sentences for these offenses may not run concurrently with each other or with any other sentence, that they can only run consecutively. Take that, Arizona!

Give somebody a ride, go to jail!

Giving an undocumented person a ride to a job or to anyplace that furthers a job search will be a misdemeanor for the first offense, and a one to five year felony for subsequent offenses. Taking eight or more such persons at a time into a vehicle for the purpose of working or seeking work will be a one to five year felony for the first offense. Again, no concurrent sentences, only consecutive ones. The only exceptions the law allows are government officials transporting the undocumented to or between courts and jails and administrative proceedings. Taxi and bus drivers, beware!

“Harboring” an undocumented person? Go to jail!

Here’s what the Brown Codes [8] say…

“’Harboring’ or ‘harbors’ means any conduct that tends to substantially help an illegal alien to remain in the United States in violation of federal law…including any building or means of transportation, when such person knows that the person being concealed, harbored, or shielded is an illegal alien, shall be guilty of the offense of concealing or harboring an illegal alien…”

“Harbor” seven or fewer, and your first offense? A misdemeanor, with up to a year sentence. Second and subsequent offenses are one to five felonies. More than seven? Accepting money for this favor, or making a profit? Felony, one to five for the first offense.

There are several more new felonies, but you get the idea. Arizona’s got nothing on Georgia cracker bile and meanness. If Arizona’s racist Sheriff Joe does run for the U.S. Senate, as he is rumored to be doing, if he makes it to DC, he’ll have some like-minded colleagues to caucus with from here. Maybe we can show him how it’s really done.

3. Under Georgia’s proposed Brown Codes [8], all law enforcement officers on contact with any inhabitant of the state will be required to make a “reasonable effort” to ascertain that person’s immigration status

It might be as simple as a glance during a traffic stop. Buffy and Ken don’t look like immigrants. Jose and Hilda? That’s another matter. They might have to answer a question, show some paper. Before the Brown Codes, law enforcement officers were not required to make a “reasonable effort” to determine status unless the person was in custody for a serious offense, such as a felony. Under the Brown Codes, anybody within sight of a law enforcement officer may be questioned and required to prove citizenship or legal status, for any reason or no reason. Take that, Sheriff Joe!

4. Georgia’s proposed Brown Codes [8] enable & encourage any and everybody to sue and recover damages from and force compliance on the part of any state official, judge or body of local government that fails to enforce the Brown Codes with sufficient rigor.

This is Georgia. Our jails are not full enough and our courts ain’t all that busy. You still can’t sue corporations that poison your air or water, or that sell you murderously unsafe products, deceptive insurance or financial instruments or the like. Class action? Forget about it. Free discovery? You must be dreaming. That is, unless you imagine a local police department isn’t investigating and rounding up immigrants fast enough, or a judge isn’t sentencing them long enough, or the principal of your child’s school or your local hospital has allowed a few to slip past its checkpoints….

Georgia’s new Brown Codes will give any yahoo with a computer and some legal forms free discovery and the legal standing to sue to force compliance on the part of and recover damages from any judge, sheriff, police department, city, county or state official or subdivision of state or local government for failing to enforce its provisions with sufficient rigor and viciousness. Georgia will lend its courts and judicial system to any yahoo that wants to ratchet enforcement up a notch.

Who says the South isn’t different? And where are the Democrats on this?

While Democrats in Georgia’ House, who are almost all black outside metro Atlanta, voted against the measures, and a few made impassioned speeches from the state house floor, none conducted public hearings in their own communities, especially black communities, to inform them of the provisions of the new Brown Codes. Georgia’s leading Democrats are like that. Lots of talk, relatively little action, practically no effort to educate the public.

Nationally, the immigrant community supported President Obama and Democrats overwhelmingly the last several elections, and has little to show for it. Deportations however, are at an all time high under President Obama. The president did issue a tepid sort of condemnation of Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law. We hope he does at least that much for Georgia, but we aren’t counting on it. Locally the black mayor of Atlanta, while he was a leading Democratic state senator, sponsored legislation that would have made it a felony to look for a job with a fake ID back in 2006 [11]. So even if Dems are voting against this stuff this time, counting on the Democratic establishment to effectively oppose this kind of thing is, well… unwise.


Georgia’s immigrant communities have declared that March 24 in Atlanta and statewide will be a Day of Dignity, during which all are asked to assemble at the state capital and make visible our demands to honor the humanity of all peoples, to oppose the racist assaults on immigrants unde cover of state law. The Georgia Green Party, of which in full disclosure I am a state committee member warmly endorses the Day of Dignity, as probably do many Democrats, as individuals, at least.

Please sign the petition [12] asking Governor Nathan Deal not to out-do Arizona in its demonstration of racist meanness. It’s unworthy of all of us. We will present hard copy of the signatures to the governor’s representatives on March 24, only a few days away. Those who sign and mark the “contact me” box will receive a follow-up note with stills or video of the presentation of their signatures to the governor’s office by month’s end.

So click here and sign now [12], especially if you live in Georgia. We don’t want Georgia to be the next “show me your papers” state. Thank you.

Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Marietta GA. He’s also a member of the state committee fo the Georgia Green Party, and reachable at bruce.dixon(at)