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Immigration issues are the focus of forum at GSU
Debra Sabia - photo by HOLLI DEAL BRAGG/staff

Immigration forum

Immigration forum at GSU

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     Fathers snatched from their homes in front of their children, and placed under arrest. Pregnant mothers  who don't speak English and don't know where to locate their husbands. Children sleeping in the woods because their parents fear what will happen if law enforcement discovers they are illegal aliens from Mexico.
    These scenarios and more were described by speakers Thursday night during a community forum at Georgia Southern University near the Russell Union. The forum was part of  the  “Families without Borders: A  Day of Understanding”  program that addressed  current and proposed immigration legislation and how recent immigration raids affected the local Hispanic community.
     “This is an educational event. Our goal is to give a voice and a face to actions in Georgia that are  affecting towns and families,” said Lori Amy,  director of the GSU Women’s and Gender Studies program, in a released statement prior to the forum.
     Several speakers expressed concern over current and proposed immigration laws.  A number of speakers were those who are involved in providing legal and economic help to affected communities.
    Carlos Martinez, former assistant to the Mexican Consulate in Canada, opened the forum and explained how immigration has long been part of life in the world.
    "Immigration ... is for the purpose of survival," he said.  Comparing the growth Georgia Southern University has shown because of others coming from surrounding states to immigration of people from one country to another, he said "immigration is not something that is bad."
    Dawn Miller, representative of the "Babies Can't Wait" program, became emotional as she described working with a young Hispanic mother who had two young children and was expecting a third when her husband was seized in a recent immigration raid.
    She spoke of the bond she formed with "Delphina," and how she was shocked to see how the woman lived - in a rented room in a large house, with access to the kitchen and bathroom only, and without air conditioning.
    She had no prenatal care, she said. "She was told to go to the emergency room when she goes into labor ... but she was glad to be living in Georgia."
    That is, until one morning law enforcement kicked in their door and yanked her husband from their bed, in front of their children, and arrested him.
    "She couldn't accept collect calls on her land line phone," Miller said. Unable to reach her husband, unable to speak English, Delphina was "left destitute, and her children are left with emotional scars.
    Delphina and her husband were treated like  mass murderers, and the only crime they committed was to move their family ... to where they could have the American dream," she said.
    Andrea Hinojosa, Founder and Director of Southeast Georgia Communities Project, was tearful even as she took the podium.
    "There are a lot of things that need to be addressed, and we have no true leaders addressing them," she said. Criticizing Gov. Sonny Perdue's views on immigration, she said he is "probably not a Christian.
    "The federal government abused a lot of these children who were left behind," she said, referring to the families affected in recent immigration raids such as the one that took place in Stillmore last September.
     Nancy Quynn, immigration attorney, urged people to vote leaders into office that will help immigrants, not hurt them.
    "If you don't like the laws that are, you need to change the people who write them," she said.
    "September 2005 will be remembered in history as a month of violence against Hispanics in Georgia," said Rey Morales, Hispanic Outreach, Catholic
 Archdiocese of Savannah. He was one of the first to minister to the families affected by the Labor Day raid in Stillmore.
     The government's proposal to build walls "is ineffective and costly," he said.
    After the scheduled speakers, members of the audience were afforded the opportunity to share their views, and a candlelight vigil was held in honor of the families affected by the recent immigration raids.
    The forum was mediated by GSU professor Debra Sabia, and sponsored by the university's Women’s & Gender Studies Program, The Multicultural Student Center, The Center for Latino Outreach, The Center for International Studies, Amnesty International, The  Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, JEDI, and the GSU Young Democrats.
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