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Immigration Nation Come to Athens

Immigration Nation co-founders Martina Carrillo and Lauren Burke (Photo Credit: Samantha Ward)

by Samantha Ward

Immigration has been at the forefront of political debate for decades now but saw a surge in conversations once President Trump began campaigning. With such widespread debate opens up the possibility of misunderstandings and straight-up lies about immigration spreading like wildfire across the internet. Many nonprofits are working to clear up these misunderstandings as well as help affected undocumented immigrants in the process, and one of them, Immigration Nation, came to Athens the other week as a part of their national tour.

Immigration Nation was created in response to the election of President Trump and his stances and hateful rhetoric against undocumented immigrants. Before the news broke, friends and Immigration Nation co-founders Martina Carrillo and Lauren Burke were about to split ways with Carrillo continuing her education and Burke about to start a consulting agency, but their connection to these issues were too personal not to drop everything and get involved.  

On their Kickstarter page they said, “Given Martina’s personal experience as an undocumented immigrant and Lauren’s work with hundreds of immigrant families. we knew we couldn’t sit idly by as our communities were under attack.  We also wanted to create audio and visual work that would share the real immigration stories of our nation. Thus, immigration nation was born.”

While touring the nation they are providing free, on-demand legal services for immigrants, hosting trainings and know your rights sessions in schools and churches, educating concerned citizens on how to advocate for their immigrant neighbors. They plan to do so for at least the first six months of President Trump’s hold in office.

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One of the three training sessions held in Athens for allies of undocumented immigrants (Photo Credit: Janet Frick)

Some of what they have done in Athens is host three different trainings, one at a local high school and the other two at a church, as well as form an impromptu “Love In” at Taqueria La Parilla after it received hate notes for closing on “A Day Without Immigrants.”

Training sessions covered a variety of topics related to being an ally to undocumented immigrants, one at a church specifically addressing what it means to be a sanctuary city, church, or organization while all of them covered topics such as the most effective way to respond to witnessed hate crime, how to support local government officials in making immigrant-friendly legislation, and facts to debunk common misconceptions about undocumented immigrants.

Two of the most prominent false claims about undocumented immigration is that it is illegal and that there is a clear path to doing it legally. Rather, Burke pointed out during the session that in some ways it would be easier for immigrants if it was illegal to be undocumented because currently they don’t even have the rights of criminals such as the right to a speedy and fair trial and the right against unreasonable seizures and searches. As far as “the path” goes, America was once known for it’s open doors to immigrants and refugees from all nations but currently only grants green cards or citizenship to those whose immediate family are already citizens, have been married for at least 10 years to a citizen, are fleeing for their safety from a horrible situation, are sponsored through work, or are starting a company worth 5 million dollars or more.

At the “Love In” at Taqueria La Parilla, Carillo, Burke, and many Athens residents came together to show their support for the employees who chose to not work on “A Day Without Immigrants” and to send a message that hate will not be tolerated in this community. It was a warm sight with everyone singing “This Little Light of Mine” and giving Valentine’s Day-esque cards with messages such as “Tacos in my Belly, Love in My Heart,” “All Are Welcomed Here” and “Immigration is Beautiful.”

Carrillo and Burke are now continuing their work on the west coast while Burke also takes part in a documentary filming about mental illness. From there, the two will continue their journey to wherever they are needed next. To follow their journey, you can go to immigrationnation.co and find their email newsletter sign up, Kickstarter link, and social media links from there.

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