by Christian Diaz, News Editor
On Monday, Nov. 28, the Coalition for Latin American Organizations (COLA) visited the College to present an interactive workshop exhibiting the perils immigrants encounter when migrating to western North Carolina and the challenges they face once here.
The intention of the workshop was to highlight that the history of immigration is the history of the United States through a popular education model.
“Immigration is not something that started ten years ago with Mexicans coming to western North Carolina,” said Ada Volkmer, who facilitated the workshop.
Dean of Service Cathy Kramer was pleased with student turnout despite rainy weather and this hectic time of the semester.
Twenty-five participants were asked to draw their own family histories of migration, and then to paste their drawings on a large timeline set up on a whiteboard in Spidel.
These images were accompanied by other historical events, some dating back to previous centuries when Native Americans were forcefully removed from Western North Carolina. Other events featured were more recent, such as the lifting of a ban on homosexual immigration to the USA in 1990.
Students and staff were able to draw connections between their personal histories and the legislation that affected their ancestors.
A short film produced by Witness for Peace operating in Oaxaca was shown exposing parallels between free trade agreements (which destroyed the jobs of two million rural Mexican farmers) and illegal immigration.
“I never made the connection between NAFTA and immigration, that the reason people move to the United States is because of our unequal trade agreements with Mexico,” said Caroline Duble, who reached out to COLA on behalf of the Service Programs Office (SPO).
The workshop also covered the difficulties currently afflicting immigrant communities in western North Carolina, including the inaccessibility to driver’s licenses and the roadblocks facing undocumented students who want to pursue higher education.
Kramer was shocked to learn about the treatment undocumented students receive at AB Tech Community College where they are forced to move to the back of the line when registering for classes.
Immigration laws in this country were explicitly racist up until 1965, when the Immigration and Nationality Act opened the borders to non-Europeans.
“We have always connected anti-immigration sentiment to racism,” said Volkmer. “For us it’s not about changing laws to allow people to be documented. Rather we believe the fear of immigrants is based on racism, especially in the south and especially in this country.”
Southern states have responded most abrasively to new immigrant communities.
A committee of six Republicans and three Democrats are expected to propose new anti-immigrant laws to the General Assembly come December, signaling that North Carolina might employ strategies seen in Arizona and Alabama.
“There is definitely a risk that things will get worse,” said Volkmer. “I think [there are] people who are afraid of people who sound and look different [in North Carolina], who want to promote the myth of this land being inherently Christian, English-speaking and white.”
On Tuesday Nov. 29, twelve people were detained and separated from their families in a raid performed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Shogun Buffet at 1000 Brevard Road.