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)

AZ Sheriff: SB 1070 Hurts Police, Communities.

———————-from the Wall Street Journal—————

Arizona’s Immigration Mistake – Those who look suspiciously like illegal immigrants will find their liberty in severe jeopardy.

MAY 5, 2010


I have spent over 50 years in the law-enforcement profession in the Tucson community, the past 30 of which I have served as sheriff. I have seen relations between our community and law enforcement personnel shift with the times: sometimes challenged when the actions of a few police officers cross the line, and often improving when there is a sense of partnership. But in the past few weeks Arizona became a model for the rest of the country of what not to do.

The immigration reform law that was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23 effectively requires that immigrants be able to prove their legal presence in the state of Arizona. I have argued from the moment that this bill was signed that it is unnecessary, that it is a travesty, and most significantly, that it is unconstitutional.

Pima County, where I am sheriff, shares 123 miles of border with Mexico. Patrolling this area for illegal immigrants is like trying to keep water from passing through a sieve.

I have always believed that the federal government, charged with the task of regulating immigration into the United States, bears the responsibility for this task. However, it has also never been the policy of my department to ignore the existence of those that are in this country illegally. That’s why my deputies are instructed that if they come in contact with an illegal immigrant they should detain him, contact Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and turn him over to federal authorities.

My deputies have referred more illegal immigrants to Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement than any other state or local law enforcement agency in Arizona. But this new law will pass the burden of immigration enforcement to my county department. This is a responsibility I do not have the resources to implement.

The more fundamental problem with the law is its vague language. It requires law enforcement officials to demand papers from an individual when they have a “reasonable suspicion” that he is an illegal immigrant. The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal” and that “they are endowed . . . with certain inalienable rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Those who look “suspiciously” like illegal immigrants will find their liberty in severe jeopardy and their pursuit of happiness disrupted—even if they are citizens or have lived, worked, paid taxes, and maybe even have served in our Armed Forces for decades.

When used in a law-enforcement context, “reasonable suspicion” is always understood to be subjective, but it must be capable of being articulated. In the case of identifying illegal immigrants, the ambiguity of what this “crime” looks like risks including an individual’s appearance, which would seem to violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause. Such ambiguity is especially dangerous when prescribed to an issue as fraught with emotion as that of illegal immigration.

I have an enormous amount of respect for the men and women of my department—the deputy sheriffs who respond to calls for assistance throughout Pima County every day of the week. I have no doubt that they make intelligent, compassionate and reasonable decisions countless times throughout their shifts. But no one can tell them what an illegal immigrant looks like and when it is ok to begin questioning a person along those lines. This law puts them in a no-win situation: They will be forced to offend and anger someone who is perhaps a citizen or here legally when they ask to see his papers—or be accused of nonfeasance because they do not.

There is a horrible problem with illegal immigration in this country, and it affects the citizens of Pima County every single day. Because of our proximity to the border, our county population demographic is heavily Hispanic (both legal and illegal). That means we must interact with witnesses and victims of crime in their times of need, regardless of their immigration status. Though this legislation states that inquiry into a person’s immigration status is not required if it will hinder an investigation, that’s not enough to quell the very real fears of the immigrant community.

Law enforcement did not ask for and does not need this new tool. What we do need is assistance from the federal government in the form of effective strategies to secure the border. Additionally, the federal government must take up this issue in the form of comprehensive immigration reform policy. If any good is to come from this firestorm, it is that our legislators will finally recognize that a problem exists and that they are the only ones with the authority to address it.

Mr. Dupnik is the Sheriff of Pima County Tucson, Ariz.

SB 1070: Still A Bad Law.

Patchwork changes to immigration law came in waning hours of session

By Evan Wyloge –

Published: April 27, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Arizona Capitol Times

One week after Gov. Jan Brewer gave Arizona the toughest immigration law in the U.S., state lawmakers added changes that would limit the scope of the law and protect local governments from lawsuits.

The changes were sought by lawmakers who voted for Arizona’s new immigration law after striking a deal with immigration hawk Sen. Russell Pearce.

Rep. Russ Jones, who was one of three Republican lawmakers to vote against a similar bill in 2009, said he agreed to vote for S1070 this year in exchange for Pearce’s promise to make changes to it in follow-up legislation.

The resulting bill, H2162, was approved on April 29, just hours before the end of the session.

H2162 prescribes a few key changes to the new immigration law, clarifying both the definition of lawful contact and guidelines for municipalities, as well as lowering the minimum — not the maximum — fine that can be assessed to cities that have so-called “sanctuary city” policies. It also restructured some of the punitive actions that a court would apply to those charged under the new law.

Representatives of the law enforcement community say the changes significantly alter the way police would have to enforce the law and the way they would be accountable for doing so.

Lyle Mann, who runs the day-to-day operations of the Arizona Peace Officers Safety and Training Board (AZPOST), said the fine points of the trailer bill are vital to the street-level execution of the new law. His group, incidentally, has been tasked by the governor with turning the provisions of the new law into a specific and manageable training rubric for police agencies across the state.

One of the changes to S1070 removes the word “solely” from the description of the new law’s lawful contact, when it comes to race. So, now race, color or ethnicity simply cannot be used as part of reasonable suspicion.

Mann said this is a huge simplification for his organization’s task, and should settle at least some of the fear over racial profiling. Now, his organization will simply be able to tell police agencies to have their officers understand that race is not a reason to initiate contact.

“It should quell the fears that a lot of people have vocalized,” Mann said. “This will make the training and policymaking much clearer and simpler.”

H2162 also narrows what is banned at the county, city and municipality level, changing it from a “policy or practice” to just a “policy” preventing police officers from using the new immigration law to its fullest extent.

With the independence that police officers rely on, Mann said, management of their activities is nearly impossible. So their “practices” are made at the officers’ discretion. The officers are trained, though, to rely on the “policies” their agency set.

“A ‘policy’ is the written instruction that tells officers how a task is to get done. ‘Practice’ is the actual activity carried out in support of that policy,” Mann said. “So the city of Phoenix might have 3,000 officers on the street. It’s much more difficult to control how those officers carry out their practices.”

Removing the words “or practices” from the new law goes a long way in protecting police agencies from lawsuits and fines, Mann said, because AZPOST will give guidelines, cities will turn those guidelines into “policy,” and the cities then would not be at the mercy of litigation coming from any resident who feels like the police agency isn’t enforcing the law to the fullest extent.

In addition, Jones said Pearce agreed to lower the fines assessed to local governments that violate the law. In S1070, a local government or agency initially could have been fined between $1,000 and $5,000 per day if an Arizona resident filed suit against them in Superior Court.

Jones wanted the fines cut in half, because he thought those numbers were arbitrary. Pearce only met him part of the way.

Instead of lowering both the maximum and minimum per-day fines, Pearce kept the $5,000 maximum and changed language in H2162 that would lower the minimum fines to $500 per day from $1,000 per day.

“Pearce says he thinks it’s important to have a sanction,” Mann said. “So you have to say, ‘OK, what’s a reasonable sanction? Do you get a better outcome with a bigger sanction?’ And you have to remember, if the city of Phoenix gets fined $1 million, they can’t open parks, they can’t operate their libraries, they take that money from schools. (Jones) is saying you can get the same compliance with half those numbers.”

Nancy Jo Merritt, who has 32 years of experience as an immigration attorney, said she understands why Jones and the law enforcement agencies would be so concerned over these small changes.

“This law is going to be so hard to comply with, so why make the punishments so harsh?” she said. “It’s like the assumption is the only way to get cities to follow this law is by threatening them with the death sentence.”

The last change outlined in H2162 concerned a phrase that said lawful contact can include an officer’s use of the new immigration law “in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state.”

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Phoenix, harped on this new phrase, saying it will mean that law officers will be able and compelled to check the status of a person, even if the police officer were responding to some sort of civil town ordinance, like an overgrown lawn, a fence in disrepair or a barking dog.

Sinema said police officers could previously only use the new immigration law when they encountered someone during the enforcement of a criminal or civil traffic violation, and that this will expand the way police officers could contact, then detain people while checking their federal immigration status.

Pearce denied that this change means much, and said police would already have been able to use the new law when making contact with a person for such civil ordinances. He said this new language was only added to further clarify the way police are authorized to use the new immigration law.

Mann of AZPOST agreed with Pearce, saying police officers would have the ability to use the new immigration law during any type of contact with any person, regardless of this new language.

“Police officers do this every day. It’s called a ‘Terry Stop,’ after the Terry v. Ohio case,” Mann said. “Let’s say there are some guys playing basketball in a park. The officer walks up and says, ‘Hey guys. How’s it going?’ That’s lawful contact. It’s a standard voluntary stop.”

Pearce said the changes in H2162 were something he agreed to, in order to get the votes he needed, and that he thinks he lived up to his bargain.

“I wasn’t excited about it, but we did it,” Pearce said. “(Jones) ought to be happy with the changes, I kept my word.”

SB 1070; Community Sovereignty; Chomsky on Fascism.

I will have more on yesterday’s Capitol protest later; this seemed relevant, though. Chomsky describes the Tea Party contingent well. They were there yesterday – indistinguishable from JD supporters, hundreds of ranchers, and rabid anti-immigrant forces. Hundreds of them, all told. And maybe 25 of us, mostly youth of color. Our opposition has no foundation for their claims, so they just called us names (“losers”, “idiots”) and told us to “go back to Mexico” (I’m a direct descendant of the first Pilgrim Governor, actually, and carry Brigham Young’s genes in my blood). 

Actually, I’m surprised I wasn’t assaulted by one of the anti-immigrant  people, because they were so agitated that a few of the women chased after me screaming when I went by them with DREAM Act fliers (“how about the ‘Go Home Act’?”). Terrified people are easily exploited by men like Pearce and Thomas, and they turn into vicious, vindictive, brutal, entitled, racist, fascist beings. 

Just watch what they do to us next – to both the migrants and their sympathizers. After yesterday’s event, I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Arpaio was elected as a Human Rights commissioner or something by AZ voters. As for us – I think we’ll see lynching come back soon – or at least a surge in vigilantism/hate crime, police harassment, and abusive prosecutions against racial and political minorities in this state.

Boy, was there a lot of hate and fear on the State House lawns yesterday, and it wasn’t coming from us. We know the arc of the universe bends towards justice – our kind, not theirs. We will work with her timeline. The Pearce/JD/Tea Party/White Supremacist crowd are the ones who are so afraid of the world out here that they have to carry guns everywhere – even though we’re really the ones (the poor) who get gunned down the most.

SB 1070 passed the House and goes to the governor now, by the way.

This will be a dark era in Arizona’s history. We might as well have segregated bathrooms and Jim Crow laws…

Actually, I guess we do. 

We are already the most fascist state in the country, and the lemmings here – all caught up in their own self-interest and privilege and fear – have no idea what has just been done to democracy…having forfeited the rights of others, we have forfeited our own.

All out of fear.

More people – US veterans, even – have been killed by the lack of health insurance this year than those killed by every single possible nuance of illegal immigration that can be milked from crime statistics. So, this has nothing to do with public safety or welfare, or Russ Pearce would have led the charge for health care reform and other things that really could save a lot of American lives. He’s destroying the fabric of our Constitution instead – and the Republican Party is bending over backwards to help the likes of him. 

They’re doing it because they know that under a true democracy they would have to share power. These people are convinced that not only do they not have to share anything, but that asking them to share any kind of resource, even in a  recession, is a direct assault on their liberty, livelihood, and even family. Thus the violent reaction to health care reform from this small segment of the community. They have intimidated their own party members into bowing down to fascism in the legislature.

That’s pretty troubling, because that means that people like my grandpa and my dad, who are anti-racist at heart, despite being Republican white men, are being taken in by the flag-waving rhetoric and exploited to support things they would give their lives to fight against if they had even a clue of where we are heading. Hell, Dad already spent his life fighting this.

But even good people led astray can be capable of horrible things…there is nothing my dad wouldn’t do to protect his family if we were under attack. We have to somehow make it harder for Pearce et al to turn our resistance to them into attacks on our neighbors, or we are all doomed.


Chomsky Warns of Risk of Fascism in America

By Matthew Rothschild, 
The Progressive 
April 12, 2010 

Noam Chomsky, the leading leftwing intellectual, warned last week that fascism may be coming to the United States.

“I’m just old enough to have heard a number of Hitler’s speeches on the radio,” he said, “and I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering” here at home.

Chomsky was speaking to more than 1,000 people at the Orpheum Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin, where he received the University of Wisconsin’s A.E. Havens Center’s award for lifetime contribution to critical scholarship.

“The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said.

He cited a statistic from a recent poll showing that half the unaffiliated voters say the average tea party member is closer to them than anyone else.

“Ridiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error,” Chomsky said.

Their attitudes “are understandable,” he said. “For over 30 years, real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy.”

There is class resentment, he noted. “The bankers, who are primarily responsible for the crisis, are now reveling in record bonuses while official unemployment is around 10 percent and unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at Depression-era levels,” he said.

And Obama is linked to the bankers, Chomsky explained.

“The financial industry preferred Obama to McCain,” he said. “They expected to be rewarded and they were. Then Obama began to criticize greedy bankers and proposed measures to regulate them.

And the punishment for this was very swift: They were going to shift their money to the Republicans. So Obama said bankers are “fine guys” and assured the business world: ‘I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.’

People see that and are not happy about it.”

He said “the colossal toll of the institutional crimes of state capitalism” is what is fueling “the indignation and rage of those cast aside.”

“People want some answers,” Chomsky said. “They are hearing answers from only one place: Fox, talk radio, and Sarah Palin.”

Chomsky invoked Germany during the Weimar Republic, and drew a parallel between it and the United States. “The Weimar Republic was the peak of Western civilization and was regarded as a model of democracy,” he said.

And he stressed how quickly things deteriorated there.

“In 1928 the Nazis had less than 2 percent of the vote,” he said. “Two years later, millions supported them. The public got tired of the incessant wrangling, and the service to the powerful, and the failure of those in power to deal with their grievances.”

He said the German people were susceptible to appeals about “the greatness of the nation, and defending it against threats, and carrying out the will of eternal providence.”

When farmers, the petit bourgeoisie, and Christian organizations joined forces with the Nazis, “the center very quickly collapsed,” Chomsky said.

No analogy is perfect, he said, but the echoes of fascism are “reverberating” today, he said.
“These are lessons to keep in mind.”

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.