Rev. Glenna Shepherd, Pastor at Decatur United Church of Christ speaks at the press conference on April 11.

With just three days before the end of Georgia‘s 2011 Legislative session, immigrant rights advocates, religious leaders, small business owners and concerned citizens are calling for Gov. Nathan Deal to veto “anti-immigrant” bills.

On Monday, April 11, activists delivered a petition with about 23,000 signatures to Mr. Deal’s office asking him to veto House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40, which could be considered by lawmakers this week.

In front of the Georgia State Capitol, protesters from various organizations held giant tombstones symbolizing the “death” of the state’s economy and reputation if the bills become law.

“Governor Deal, we urge you to be a life-saver, or else the state of Georgia will be littered with the tombstones of all that we, as a state, have lost,” said the Rev.Tim McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church, at a press conference held before the petition was delivered.

House Bill 87 mandates that certain companies use a federal E-Verify system to ensure the legality of their employees. It also authorizes law enforcement officers to check the legal status of suspected criminals if they are unable to provide identification and makes harboring an illegal immigrant an offense.

Xochitl Bervera, a member of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said these types of provisions could hurt the Georgia‘s tourism industry if groups follow through on boycotting the state.

One of these groups is the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, which faxed Mr. Deal a letter on April 7, saying it would organize a boycott if the bills become law.

“These bills are going to bankrupt Georgia morally and financially,” Ms. Bervera told GlobalAtlanta after the protest in a phone interview.

She added that the bills would put churches and nonprofits at risk who could unintentionally harbor illegal immigrants by taking them on a church retreat.

The petition and press conference were organized by a number of local organizations including Amnesty International-Southern Regional Office, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

For more information on the bills, visit http://www.globalatlanta.comarticle/24699/.

To see the latest versions of HB 87 or SB 40, visit