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The disappearing migrants

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Gathered at the Storefront on Dec. 11, 2010, members, friends, and volunteers of Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network (GCISN) sat together breaking bread, reminiscing at the status of immigration laws and events of the passing year in the United States and State of Ohio.

Elisa Bredendiek summarized the battles won and the many more lost; but the organization has continued to provide exceptional services such as providing undocumented immigrants with English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.

Rubén Castilla Herrera

“We believe language is a tool,” Bredendiek said. Computer competency courses have also been added this year, the non-profit completely volunteer organization hired their first staff member this year, marched for rights, and advocated on behalf of those on deportation. The group organizes with the Legal Aid Society to provide free legal services for things as simple as dealing with landlords to accompanying patients to the hospital.

“This year we have seen our friends literally disappear from the community.”

She said they have served people from 4 continents and 14 countries.  The ESL class began at 52 but over the year has been reduced to 5, fear of raids, deportation; hate crimes have directly affected the community.

“I am sick of hearing the negative, heavy on lies and flawed research propaganda that is being spread and if anyone has doubts I am happy to share facts and statistics,” she said. Bredendiek added the height of racism and rhetoric against Islamophobia and bashing of gay rights under the guise of a bad economy and limited resources is eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow laws, and even the holocaust. “Being German I am hesitant to draw parallels, but this is in fact history repeating itself,” she said.

Bredendiek stressed apathy, and lack of action is allowing the fear of white supremacists to shape the policy and laws of the country.

 Looking around the room at the diversity and commitment of those present, she added it is proof there is hope. While Arizona’s S.B. 1070 may not be in effect in Ohio, she said the undocumented continues to be unjustly targeted, especially while driving.

“Ninety-five percent of those on deportation were caught during a traffic violation- imagine as a U.S. resident and citizen being approached by a police officer to show your valid license after you have parked your car and walked out—I assure you as a white person it has never happened to me,” she said.

Rubén Castilla Herrera, founder of the Ohio Action Circle, said there will always be an ‘other’ that is being targeted.  He credited the young coalition of ‘DREAMs’ in mobilizing and utilizing social media to create momentum for the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). But at the bill faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate, Castilla Herrera asks: “What is next?”

He expressed disappointment in Pres. Barrack Obama: “I know change is hard to create but I really believe he could have done more.” Executive action to halt deportations is still a possibility said Castilla Herrera but encouraged mobilizing through simple means, contacting state representatives and garnering media attention.

In the case of Bernard Pastor, 18 year old from Guatemala, detained after a minor car accident and placed in deportation proceeding in Southwest Ohio, Castilla Herrera said his friends became critical catalysts change. “They rallied to talk about their friend, and brought their moms who saw him as a son,” he said. “That changed the face of the debate from an undocumented other to the human story.”

He said the change of gubernatorial leadership in Ohio government will mean more anti-immigrant legislations being proposed, but more dangerous than them passing is the increase in enforcement. “When I was in Arizona what I heard was: ‘This stuff has always happened here, now it’s just the law’.”

Don Bryant, president of the Immigration Support Network, said the organization has many initiatives that include listening to the stories and sharing them with others. “When we hear stories from the community and learn about each others’ struggles we realize we are not too different,” he said.

Immigrant Support Network held a press conference in support of the Dream Act on Dec. 14, 2010.

For more information visit: http://immigrantsupportnetwork.org/


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Copyright © 2010 by [LaPrensa Newspaper]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/26/14 19:42:13 -0800.





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