Another immigration legalization rally held in Atlanta

By HARRY R. WEBER, Gainesville Times/ Associated Press, October 7, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) -- On one side of the state Capitol on Saturday stood several thousand immigrants calling for laws that would allow them to stay in the United States legally. A few blocks away, behind a metal barrier, stood two dozen people who want them to go home.

Between the two groups: The great divide over how to deal with millions of undocumented workers in the U.S., many of whom cross the border from Mexico in search of a better life.

Six months after 50,000 immigrants and their supporters marched in downtown Atlanta to protest legislation that cracks down on illegal immigrants, the same organizers rallied with a much smaller but similarly vocal crowd.

Their demands were the same but their hopes dimmer - Congress has made no progress toward a path to legalization for illegal immigrants, Georgia has passed strict immigration measures and authorities have arrested dozens of immigrants in recent raids across the state.

"We want to open the door," said one of the pro immigration rally organizers, Teodoro Maus, former Mexican consul in Atlanta. "How they do it is a matter of negotiation."

Maus had harsh words for the small group of protesters with their bullhorns telling them to get out of the U.S.

"I think they are xenophobic," he said. "They are racists and they are hiding their racism in 'legal or not legal.'"

One of the protesters, hot sauce company owner Jerry Gualtieri, insisted he is not a racist.

"I have very good Mexican friends," Gualtieri, wearing a belt buckle emblazoned with a Confederate flag, said.

Just as he spoke, a fellow protester walked by with a sign that read, "Mexico is not our friend."

Asked about the sign, Gualtieri said there's nothing contradictory about his position.

"It's because 85 percent of the illegals happen to be Mexican," he said. "We're a nation of laws."

Gualtieri picked up his bullhorn and yelled down the street, "We are going to fire the politicians who are letting you stay here illegally."

Over the last year, there have been several marches and rallies in Georgia and elsewhere in the country by immigrants seeking changes in Washington. Some have protested stricter immigration laws that have been debated in Congress, and they hope their voices will be heard by politicians.

The critics, too, are hoping to be heard by lawmakers. The Georgia Legislature has already taken on illegal immigration, passing a law that cracks down on undocumented workers and those who hire them.

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