12.29.2006

For the Love of Immigrants

All her life, Sascha Herrera wanted to be a dancer. She traveled to the United States from her native Colombia in hopes of reaching her goal and also mending a broken heart. When she arrived in Atlanta, she got more than she bargained for. Not only did she get to dance in a special holiday performance, but she found love in the process, married Georgia state Sen. Curt Thompson and lived happily ever after.That is, until she got a deportation notice from the Department of Homeland Security.

Click here for the rest of this timely and purely American story.

Then think about Sascha's story in light of the what's happening to so many others. For example, it's not known what's happened to all of the Latino men that were dragged away from their jobs and families in the government's Swift Company raids. Where are their advocates? Who's fighting to make sure that decent Americans know that loving fathers, brothers and husbands are being tortured and "disappeared" simply for trying their best to provide for their families.

But Sascha's case also speaks to the political and cultural changes happening in the South. Not only did a Colombian immigrant find a home in Georgia, but she also found love there with, well, a nonLatino. In the past, the immigrant girl would go to New York City or LA. Today, but today she's just as likely to be in Atlanta, Raleigh, Charleston and Knoxville.

And the Old South politician was not known for taking on the cause of immigrants, especially ones without papers. But in Sascha's case she has a rather prominent person as an advocate: her Georgia State Senator husband. Georgia has taken another step towards the New America.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush is another one of these new Southern men whose politics are decidedly better balanced as a result of getting to know (and even falling in love with) individuals that are immigrants.

There's another story a read recently that captures in real time the seismic changes happening in the South. In the midst of an anti-immigrant battle in rural Tennessee, a local man falls in love with an immigrant Latina. Unlike Sascha and the Georgia Senator, these two are nameless, the kind of people that live in hamlets we never visit. But there it's happening, too.
The fellow's a self-described "red neck" and former terrorizer of immigrants. He now confesses to having joined in dehumanizing and harassing the local "wetbacks" and "illegals".

One day things changed: The one-time hater fell in love with an immigrant Latina. He's come to know others in her community and he's found himself regretting making peoples' lives even more difficult. Increasingly, he finds himself defending the immigrants.

So while change is happening one-to-one, the federal government and some states (e.g., Massachusetts) and towns are storming in blackboots and forcing a growing circle of "desaparecidos".

Thankfully, Sascha has her advocate. But where are the advocates for the desaparecidos. They're worthy of America's love and protection, as well.


Photo: AP/Ric Feld