State’s immigration stance costs it major education conference

Several disappointed researchers and educators asked me to write about the decision of the American Education Research Association to move its 2013 conference from Atlanta to San Francisco because of our state’s new immigration law,  House Bill 87.

In passing the controversial bill last year, Georgia became one of three states to empower police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. HB 87 — which is partly patterned after Arizona’s law — also sets new hiring requirements for employers and penalizes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants here. (Read this AJC story for background on the bill.)

The AERA conference, one of the most prestigious education forums in the nation, typically attracts 14,000 or 15,000 educators.

In the letter announcing the decision, the AERA executive board wrote:

The situation leading to relocation was brought about by the passage on May 13, 2011 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 (Georgia HB87). This difficult decision was reached by the Executive Board after several months of thoughtful discussion, extensive review of any potential fiscal consequences, and consideration of the AERA’s educational mission by the Council and Executive Board.

As our members know, the American Educational Research Association is dedicated to advancing knowledge about education, encouraging scholarly inquiry related to education, and promoting the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. As part of this overall mission, the Association’s Social Justice Mission Statement emphasizes that all AERA members and participants in AERA activities such as the Annual Meeting must have open access and opportunity to partake in them. The Guidelines for AERA Position Taking make clear the appropriateness of the Association operating its own function in accord with the values of equity, equality, and transparency. Among the most important of these functions is convening meetings and selecting sites for them.

Unfortunately, Georgia has passed legislation pertaining to immigration that seriously compromises the viability of AERA to hold a conference where all its members will be welcome. The new law has significant educational consequences for an important but vulnerable student population. Undocumented children are placed at risk insofar as parents will be afraid of enrolling their children in school.

The law also suggests that educators who have routine interactions with, and/or help undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States could be guilty of committing a crime. Similar legislation in other states has led to bullying in schools. Our own members could plausibly face legal challenges to their presence if they were to attend the conference in Atlanta. Some AERA members have pointed out that they would not participate in a conference in Atlanta where individuals from Mexico, Haiti, and other countries could be racially profiled and harassed. Although this legislation may be overturned, there is no sense of when a definitive ruling will be made.

In an email, one educator said:

Losses to Atlanta and the Georgia economy might be roughly estimated as:

1. $25 to 30 million in initial convention revenue

2. $20 to 50 million additional economic impact due to the financial “multiplier effect” from the participants’ convention and tourism money spent here

3. Permanent harm to the improvement of Georgia’s public school system that this conference might have produced.Georgia educators cannot use state money for out-of-state travel (even for professional learning) and our education leaders will be forever denied access to this, the most prestigious forum on education in the world.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

24 comments Add your comment


February 27th, 2012
5:24 pm

Yeah, being a bigot just ain’t very cool.

And economically it’s just plain stupid.

Oh, and Jesus doesn’t care for hate either :)

Beverly Fraud

February 27th, 2012
5:38 pm

You mean the organization that gave Beverly Hall their Distinguished Public Service Award?

Not in 2000 mind you.

Not in 2005 mind you.

The organization who gave her the award in TWO THOUSAND AND TEN?

Maureen, you think maybe the delivery person missed their driveway for TWO YEARS?

Yep, that decision sure sets them up to be taken seriously when they get on a moral high horse doesn’t it?


February 27th, 2012
5:41 pm

I find it ironic that the conference was moved to one of the most notoriously liberal areas in the country. All of the pro-immigration folks need to take a look at what’s going on in SF. They’ve had multiple cases of illegals murdering legal citizens because of their sanctuary city policies. As far as I’m concerned all the supporters of illegals should move over there and the conference organizers can stay in SF. Who needs them anyway?


February 27th, 2012
7:32 pm

I am sorry because I was looking forward to going. I have presented at AERA, and have been published by them. They are a far-reaching, diverse educational research association. Big loss for Atlanta.

No Loss at All

February 27th, 2012
8:29 pm

Upholding the law and allowing police officers to check for illegal status should be a requirement in all US states. Illegal aliens are sucking the life out of us and they need to go away.
15,000 visitors not coming? Who cares? We need to uphold the law and get rid of illegas. If we got rid of illegals we’d have TONS of money in this country and wouldn’t need a paltry 15,000 visitors to rent a few hotel rooms.

Get rid of illegals,
Good Mother

Ron F.

February 27th, 2012
9:35 pm

“If we got rid of illegals we’d have TONS of money in this country and wouldn’t need a paltry 15,000 visitors to rent a few hotel rooms.”

Okay, I’ll bite. Where are the numbers to back this up? What evidence do you have of specific negative economic impact? If you ask the hotels and the venue planning to host this, I bet you’d hear a much different story. I’m not supportive of anyone being here without documentation, but perhaps if we didn’t make it so hard to get documentation and strike such fear into those who might willingly get it, I bet they wouldn’t be “illegal.” I’ve taught children who were likely here without proper documentation, and I’ll tell you I’d take a room full of them over the rest. They tend to be more focused, more engaged, and more interested in learning. If we made the path to legal residency, and potential citizenship more attractive to them, they’d do it in a heartbeat. They want a chance at a decent life and aren’t afraid of working substandard jobs for paltry pay to get it.


February 27th, 2012
10:05 pm

They are illegal and criminals—-our tax dollars need to be used to send illegal’s back to the country they came from.

We need to take care of our CITIZENS who need an education and assistance, we can’t take in everyone who breaks into the country.


February 27th, 2012
10:37 pm

So, in one fell swoop we crack down on the illegals AND kept the AERA out of town? Bonus!!!

Groups such as the AERA who put their politically correct agenda ahead of the sovereignty of this country make me sick.

With America teetering on the brink of financial collapse, more immigrants, both legal and illegal, come to the United States to collect welfare than to get “better jobs.”

In Arizona, a staggering 62% of all immigrant families receive assistance from at least one of the following forms of welfare; SSI, TANF, WIC, Public Housing, Food Stamps, Free Lunch, or Medicaid. Most of this 62% are receiving multiple forms of welfare. A large percentage of these families have never paid anything in taxes to support these programs.

In California, New York, and Texas the rate is 61%.

By immigrant family, we mean all families with an immigrant head of household. So this even includes immigrants who married an American citizen!

Among immigrant families from the Dominican Republic an astronomical 80% are on welfare. Among those from Mexico and Guatemala, 75% are on welfare. Among those from Ecuador, 70% are on welfare.

And then there’s this gem: “Our own members could plausibly face legal challenges to their presence if they were to attend the conference in Atlanta.”

So the AERA admits to abetting illegal alien lawbreakers. Interesting…

[...] Speaking of immigration, a press conference will be held this morning at the state Capitol to protest Senate Bill 458. [...]


February 28th, 2012
3:34 am

this whole illegals invading paranoia, was started by republicans trying to make money off the private prison system and AZ stock holder gov brewer. it was a problem but they got a sense of urgency from americans, omg be scared of the anchorbabydrugcartelgang members stealing your job!!!!!!! btw did you know that undocumented people can pay irs tax id numbers- which many do- in hopes of a citizenship chance. tax id numbers with sales and property tax contribute billions and subsitize our social security – not only that , they cant collect on it. now i know what you ignorants are thinking ” well gee pa i see them taken advantage of the system’ – really you do ? how? cause americans would love to know? OR do you see a tattered person that just offends you because you think your special? GE didnt even pay as much as illegal immigrants have- and who exploits them- big bussiness and who keeps them in the shadows – republican law makers with ban laws- and whos lobbied by big corporations?- republicans duh, seriously, 11 million potential terrorist drug cartels? 11 million fake socials? so if the government is collecting on that social security number- doesnt that make it dirty money? dont see them turning it down so fast. people cant be that stupid… but im seeing it. I support the dream act and im a vet, and i was republican.


February 28th, 2012
3:41 am

no one is all up in arms over the BILLIONS going into Israel. Kosher tax on every item right down to febreeze- your paying another country, a “buddy” country that gets us into more fights, than going to the bar with the cast of jersey shore. think about it, these people want to be american, israel wants to be israel and wants you to pay for it. but speak out loud and have the book thrown at you, i could say “screw japan” but if i say ” screw israel ‘ – then what? your freedoms are being owned, and all your focused on is a family working lame as jobs noone else wants, and trying to be better.


February 28th, 2012
3:46 am

‘Illegal alien families primarily receive food stamps and Medicaid by popping out “anchor babies.” Legal immigrants families often are receiving those benefits plus many more.’ – how many families do you “personally’ know- cause this is total bs, all those things require citizenship- and the anchor babies thing has been proven to be slander and more dehumanization by chicken hawks, proven by immigration themselves – sooo what if you gave them legal work status- you think they will “mooch” ( that is if they could)? and remember we are talking about immigrants, not lazy americans. should i have to pay for freckled face midwest kids? just cause they are american? i rather pay into the dream act, instead of some fat nascar fanatic crack baby.

[...] The American Education Research Association decided to move its 2013 conference from Atlanta to San Francisco as a protest of Georgia’s immigration law. (AJC) [...]


February 28th, 2012
9:19 am

This is the worst form of extortion, but then again, what can you expect from America’s “educators”.

Old timer

February 28th, 2012
9:57 am

What other country would allow totally open immigration from anyone who wanted to move in? Certainly not Mexico. We need to seal our borders and then deal with people here. And to those who think all immigrants are motivated and focused….think again….broad generalizations are never good.
Keep in mind Ga, AZ, etc are only copying the unendorced federal law.

Old timer

February 28th, 2012
10:00 am

And Garrett…go to rural agricultural areas… will find many many receiving many types of aid..medical food etc. say…visit middle TN

Dekalb taxpayer

February 28th, 2012
10:57 am

Garrett must not shop in Dekalb. Sometimes I think I am the only person in the store who isn’t using a food stamp card. And they aren’t citizens.

Beverly Fraud

February 28th, 2012
10:59 am

When you give Beverly Hall an award as RECENTLY as 2010, and do NOTHING (far as I know) to recant it, you really haven’t set yourself up as a moral authority to comment on anything, have you?

[...] immigration stance costs the state a major educational [...]

Jerry Eads

February 28th, 2012
1:21 pm

This may not be the only national conference Georgia has lost due to the immigrant legislation and/or our troubles addressing transportation. I imagine Savannah and Augusta also may have felt the impact. The largest impact may, of course, have been on agriculture costs.

It’s only reasonable to adjust the costs by any savings brought by reducing immigration (both legal and illegal) – perhaps reduced health care costs, improperly awarded unemployment insurance, and so forth.

Perhaps we should factor in the increased tax base from the thousands of unemployed citizens who flocked to the fields to fill the vacuum (yes, I’m kidding – my understanding is that few did so).

For transportation infrastructure, add the billions lost from the damage to the economy (like businesses not moving here or moving elsewhere) but on the other side of the coin factor in the billions saved from the reduced investment in infrastructure.

It seems to me it would be fun for some energetic economist to take on such an analysis. I don’t know whether anyone else would care what the answers were, but this data geek who now won’t get to attend the conference would certainly enjoy them.


February 28th, 2012
3:07 pm
Undocumented immigrants fuel the economy. Want to know why food is more expensive and joblessness persistent. See how Georgia lost $391 billion with this questionable practice.


February 28th, 2012
8:20 pm

Illegal is illegal and being a criminal isn’t cool either esp. at the cost of the host state’s money.
When I see hundreds of illegals working on construction sites tax free, while American workers go unemployed and in some cases bankrupt due to under handed contractor’s who only use cheap labor, and lie to get contracts.
American’s , Georgians are tired of illegals demanding rights at the sake of citizens, America has done enough, in fact gone over board in helping illegals.
No, other country would allow it’s citizens to get screwed like the American tax payers does.
No, tears here, get legal, and I praise the elected officials that have taken this stand against illegal immigration.


February 29th, 2012
1:56 pm

@Jerry Eads I don’t know how you manage to respond this calmly or provide such interesting questions on a forum like this. All I can feel is anger reading most of the comments here, and anger at having to pay hundreds of dollars extra out of my own pocket to go to a conference that I could have simply driven to, because posters like them voted for politicians that cost me and this state dearly. All I can say is that you’re a model poster to be emulated. That I had only half your calm.

Bill Denham

March 5th, 2012
11:42 am

I love that all the people who are commenting on this article who support police racial profiling seem to have one thing in common, they are all saying get out and good riddance. HA! That is exactly what makes for a mono cultural, silly society. These anti-immigration laws in Georgia, Alabama and Arizona encourage racial profiling, are racist and un-american. You should be ashamed and loosing this conference and the millions of dollars it brings is you reaping what you sow.