by Alexander De la Torre Bueno
A delegation of students and activists were in Atlanta for a week to document efforts to resist anti-immigrant law H.B. 87. The delegation members will be sharing first-hand accounts of their experiences with dispatches. Visit Imagine 2050 regularly for more Dispatches from Georgia.
“I prepared this presentation especially for you all. Not even my staff has seen it so this should be fun,” said Loretta Ross in a giddy voice.
As she began her presentation, Ross’s voice took on a somber cadence. Before a delegation of out-of-state activists, she cataloged the injustices perpetrated on undocumented Latina immigrants in Georgia under the state’s new immigration law, HB-87. Ross talked about basic human rights, not civil rights, but the unalienable rights of every person to a decent life. She called it a standard of humanity.
Ross and her organization, Sister Song, advocate for reproductive justice and human rights. Historically Sister Song has worked with Georgia’s black community, but recently Ross’s organization turned its attention towards the struggle of Georgia’s immigrant population. Sister Song and other groups such as S.O.N.G. (Southerners on New Ground) have joined the fight against HB-87 to build a multi-racial response to the anti-immigrant sentiment surrounding the new law.
Some of the biggest disputes Sister Song and other reproductive justice organizations have with bills like HB-87 relate to healthcare provisions for undocumented Latinas. “We got 3 million undocumented women who pay for their own healthcare or go without because they are excluded from the system of attaining healthcare through other means,” said Ross.
Ross categorized healthcare as a human right that should not be tied to citizenship, and said that withholding that right from an undocumented immigrant in need is a violation of that person’s human rights. “The whole role relief and social service agencies are playing as an arm of the state in monitoring peoples immigration status is a violation of their human rights; they (immigrants) still have those human needs,” she said.
S.O.N.G., a human rights organization that works with the LGBT community, hosted unity summits to bring together members of the black and Latino communities. “Undocumented communities in the South are finally lifting their heads up and fighting, whereas before the standard was to just keep your head down and let it pass,” says Paulina Hernandez, co-director of S.O.NG.
Hernandez wants to strengthen multi-racial organizing against HB-87. Her efforts have been encouraged by the new wave of activism within the Latino community, and she hopes that this spirit will carry into the 2012 election debates.
“Some people have to put up with oppression. I’m lucky enough just to fight it,” said Ross at the end of her presentation.