7.19.2007

Southern States -- Immigration's New Battlefield

New America Media interviewed over a dozen immigrant rights advocates in grassroots organizations across the South to learn what's been happening since the defeat of federal immigration reform. The following are excerpts:

ALABAMA

[W]e’ve seen...militia members arrested because they were hoarding weapons and were planning to attack Latinos. A radio host on 1070 AM was telling people...that what we can do to undocumented persons is to go and shoot all of them.

Fernando Martinez
Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama
Birmingham

FLORIDA

ICE has conducted early morning...raids on Haitians...in which parents have been arrested and detained for deportation without warning and in the space of five minutes removed from their U.S.-born children and spouses.

Steven David Forester
Haitian Women of Miami, Inc.
Miami

[I]t's creating a lot of stress on our kids. One mother went to reissue her work permit and she was deported. She left three children at home.

Reginale Durandisse
Haitian Citizen United
Lakeworth


Since the Senate vote, people are so disappointed. There are so many people receiving deportation orders and they were hoping that this would have bought them some time. The fear is palpable.

Gepsie Metlellus
Sant La-Haitian Neighborhood Center
Miami


GEORGIA

The current immigration debate has created an openly hostile environment against immigrants in Georgia. There is confusion about the implementation of [anti-immigrant] state law that went into effect July 1, 2007.

Jerry Gonzalez
Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials
Atlanta

[A] new 1000-plus detention facility...opened up in Lumpkin, Ga. last year. Immigrants...detained from raids in other states...are transported to Stewart Detention Center even though their...families do not reside anywhere close to the detention facility.

Monica Modi Khant
Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network
Atlanta

Gwinnett County passed an anti-immigrant ordinance. We’re afraid that it may cause extreme discrimination, and it may be unconstitutional.

Judy Yi
The Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc.
Atlanta

We are concerned that it is going to be devastating to the community as the immigrant community is increasingly targeted. In one county, two white people wearing swastikas attacked a Latino man at his house.

Adelina Nicholls
Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
Atlanta

KENTUCKY

Kentucky Attorney General...released a statement...in which he said that it is okay for police officers to check for citizenship status in the course of an arrest. There are...questions on what "in the course of arrest" means. People are concerned at this point.

Aaron Hutson
Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Lexington

NORTH CAROLINA

There are over 20 bills on immigration waiting to be voted on in the North Carolina General Assembly that are all anti-immigrant.

Marisol Jimenez McGee
El Pueblo, Inc.
Raleigh

Charlotte is fairly conservative when it comes to immigration issues, and the debate has given a platform for angry rhetoric. As a result, pro-immigrant voices are intimidated and people are keeping a low profile.

David Stewart
International House of Metrolina
Charlotte

SOUTH CAROLINA

We have an ordinance that went into effect July 1...after... Hazleton...and Beaufort County, S.C. The ordinance was passed by one vote.

Diana Salazar
Latino Association of Charleston
Charleston

TENNESSEE

The anti-immigrant sentiment is not just directed at Latinos; it’s affecting the Asian and Muslim communities, anyone who doesn’t look like they are from here.

Jessica Kimiko Baba
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition
Nashville

The environment on the state level...is quite hostile. The state legislature considered 44 anti-immigrant bills this year, three of which passed.

Monica Hernandez
Highlander Research and Education Center
New Market

VIRGINIA

They may know the issue and want to do something about it, but the language barrier means that only a few young professionals or people who grew up here get involved.

Khanh T. Tran
Boat People S.O.S., Inc.
Falls Church