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Immigrant rights advocate addresses issues in Cleveland and Toledo
By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Jaqueline García Salamanca, an advocate and organizer working in Veracruz, Mexico with the Jesuit Migrant Services, discussed cause and effect of immigration, reform and impact on civil society at Immigrant Support Network in Cleveland on Oct.29, 2011, after having given a presentation at the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s headquarters in Toledo on Friday, Oct. 28.

García Salamanca is a former undocumented immigrant to the United States.

García Salamanca was invited to tour and speak about her personal story by Witness for Peace [WFP]. The grassroots organization aims to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas by changing policies of the United States and corporate practices which contribute to poverty and oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean.

She was accompanied by Tony Macias, who said myths and anti-immigrant sentiment stems from ignorance of the situation in Latin America, and the impact U.S. policies have overseas. “The question we hear is, ‘What are they doing in Mexico?’” He said WFP reframes the question and asks instead, “What responsibility do the U.S. citizens have in understanding and shaping policies overseas and locally for reform?”


Jaqueline García Salamanca

“We want to raise the consciousness and increase awareness of the impact of NAFTA in Mexico,” he said.

WFP was founded in 1983 in response to the U.S. funding of the Contras. Over the course of the decade, WFP sent thousands of US-Americans to Nicaragua to witness the devastating effects of US-sponsored “low intensity warfare.”  It continues to organize and send delegations to Latin American countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Macias said García Salamanca has an interesting perspective on immigration because she has experienced migration across the United States/Mexico border, returned to Mexico and is helping families and the new flux of immigrants.

“Migration is no made by choice, people are obligated to leave because of poverty,” said García Salamanca. On this journey north, they face numerous obstacles, drug cartels who exploit them, dangerous terrains and weather, and when they reach the border they are greeted by a billion dollar wall that treats them as criminals, forced to find dangerous and lethal entry points, she said.

García Salamanca was four when her father left her mother and brother to search for work, and although he had made the journey numerous times before, he never returned. “To this day we have not found him,” she said in Spanish.

Her mother came to the United States searching for her father and García Salamanca remembers the fear and struggle of assimilating to a new culture and environment. She remembers her mother’s heartache, grief, depression and feelings of abandonment and realizes how she did not have the tools to deal with these emotions.

Today, working with Jesuit Migrant Services, she helps families left behind by migrant workers to cope in three significant ways—by providing emotional support and understanding, creating a community savings bank to use the remittances sent back in the most optimal way; and by creating protected community projects that provide sustainable employment so there is no need to leave. 

García Salamanca said Mexicans treat migrants from other Latin American countries with the same disrespect they receive from the U.S., and Mexican police are known to harass migrants for money, they are victimized and many don’t survive the journey north. Mexicans of conscious are united to demand rights for migrants and reform in Mexico and García Salamanca said the same is possible in the United States.

On her tour across the country at various universities and venues, she is surprised by the lack of interest and knowledge on immigration and said people seem to be living in a bubble of rose-colored glasses. “In Mexico students go to the university to becoming involved, be active in politics and make a difference,” she said.

Engaging the audience in a discussion of their personal immigration stories she said the myths and stereotypes fall away and open opportunities to analyze the root causes of immigration.

Marcia Quiles said her husband was deported a year ago, and although she has petitioned for his return because of their children, one disabled, the processing is very slow. “The guidelines for hardships are next to impossible to meet,” she said. Then there is the economic toll, the cost is quickly adding up to thousands.

Guests shared various resources and tips available to migrants in Cleveland and expressed hope for reforms aligned with values of human rights and dignity.

For more information visit: www.witnessforpeacve.org and www.immigrantsupportnetwork.org

Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/01/11 16:04:06 -0800.





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