by: Manuel Bojorquez Updated:
ATLANTA - A May Day rally at the state capitol brought together two themes: immigration and workers' rights.
The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights said the rally showed solidarity for legal and illegal immigrant workers, students and the labor movement.
"Immigrants are workers ... everything's linked together," said Georgina Perez, with the alliance.
One of their demands is for the federal government to end a program called Secure Communities, which begins the deportation process at local jails, including many facilities in Georgia.
Opponents argue many are deported for minor traffic violations, and some leave families behind.
They also say an announcement by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement last week that fewer people with minor traffic violations will face deportation does not go far enough.
"All we're seeing is that our communities have been separated and hurt," said Perez, who argues immigrants, legal or not, simply want to better their lives and the communities they live in.
Not far away, one of the group's critics, D.A. King, watched the rally and said any change that doesn't advocate strict enforcement of
existing immigration laws is wrong.
"No one has ever been deported for a broken tail light," King said. "The singular reason for deportation is violation of American immigration laws."
King worked to pass Georgia's new immigration law, and said enforcement is working to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the state and country, as well problems associated with their presence.
He accused those at the rally of using families as an excuse for getting away with a crime.
"Either we are going to honor our immigration laws, or we're going to open our borders," he said.
As both sides continue to debate, it's clear the issue will remain a heated one heading into the presidential election.