Jose Luis Diaz and his cab
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Illegal immigrants take taxis to avoid deportation

At sunrise in Gainesville, brightly coloured taxis arrive one after another outside the gates of a chicken processing plant. It's not exactly Manhattan at rush hour but the roads of this small Georgia town, with a population approximately 35,000, are full of taxis.

The thriving taxi businesses are an unexpected consequence of a tough immigration law which has been in effect in Gainesville for several years and is similar to controversial legislation passed in other southern US states.

Police have the power to ask a driver about their immigration status even if they are stopped for a minor traffic violation. Many undocumented workers, fearful that a speeding ticket could turn into deportation, now use taxis for everything from commuting, to work, to grocery shopping.

Supporters of the law say that legal residents have nothing to worry about and point to the fact that many illegal workers are choosing to "self-deport".

But critics call it a civil rights issue and warn it stokes a climate of fear and division. Ironically, all eight of the cab companies in Gainesville are operated by Hispanics.

The BBC spent a day with two "Taxistas" to get the word from the street about how their business and community has been affected.

  • 07 Mar 2012
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