Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

6 Latinos Leave Perdue Panel; One-Third of Economic Group Resigns; Many Cite Immigration Bill

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

6 Latinos Leave Perdue Panel; One-Third of Economic Group Resigns; Many Cite Immigration Bill

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA -- Controversy over legislation targeting illegal immigrants has prompted a rash of resignations within a Latino advisory panel created by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The latest resignation came Wednesday, bringing to six the number of departed members of the Latino Commission for a New Georgia, one-third of the panel. Several of the members reminded the governor of their Republican loyalties as they quit.

At issue is Senate Bill 529 passed by the General Assembly in March and signed into law by Perdue Monday. Many objected to a provision in the law that empowers local police officers to enforce federal immigration statutes, saying the change will make immigrants afraid to call police to report crimes or to cooperate as a witness.

When he announced the commission in 2003, Perdue said it was designed to help attract business and "play a consulting role in policy development . . ."

Yet, Perdue never met with the commission to discuss the bill before he decided to sign it, even though the measure prompted public protests and was the most significant issue before the immigrant community.

The Times-Union obtained copies of the commission's letters and e-mails through the Open Records Act.

Some members had harsh words, such as Alex Salgueiro, president of Savannah Restaurants Corp.

"As a dedicated Republican and citizen of Georgia, I do not feel it is a good use of my valuable time to serve on a sham commission," he wrote in his resignation. "By continuing to serve, I feel I would be giving you credibility for having compassion and understanding of the plight of the Latino people which you obviously do not have."

Jacqueline Thomas Rosier, managing partner of the public relations firm IRGroup in Duluth was equally blunt.

"This commission clearly has no other reason to exist other than to be a line in your campaign literature," she wrote.

Sara Gonzalez, president of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said her beef was more with the commission chairman, Mario Martinez, than with Perdue for signing the bill. She said Martinez should have called a meeting.

Martinez, the head of Tecnix LLC in Alpharetta, did not return two messages requesting a comment for this story.

Perdue's press secretary, Heather Hedrick, said the governor didn't meet with the commission because he didn't meet with any other groups voicing opposition or support for the bill. But Perdue aide Julie Smith did send an e-mail March 30 inviting commission members to contact her with opinions to be passed along.

The next day, Gonzalez resigned along with Venus Gines, founder of the health organization Dia de la Mujer Latina in Tucker. Gines is the former Cobb County chairwoman of the Republican National Hispanic Association.

To date, six of the 18 commission members have formally resigned. …

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