By Zach Potter firstname.lastname@example.org
Nov 14, 2015
Nov. 14–SANFORD — The relationship between Sanford immigrant communities and police, access to public transportation and effective communication between local governments and immigrants are the biggest challenges facing Lee County’s Hispanic population, according to the results of a year-long study by the Latino Migration Project.
“Sanford Building Integrated Communities is a three-year project,” LMP Director Hannah Gill told a crowd of about 80 people, which included immigrants and Sanford natives, gathered for a BIC meeting at Jonesboro United Methodist Church Thursday night. “During the first year, many of you completed surveys or came to public meetings to help us learn about strengths, resources and the biggest problems facing local immigrant communities.”
Thursday’s meeting presented a chance for local residents to brainstorm solutions to the three major problem areas the Building Integrated Communities project, sponsored by the UNC-Chapel Hill LMP to help municipal governments better relate to cities’immigrant populations, identified during its study.
“After the meeting, we will go back to the drawing board with those suggestions to determine the feasibility of [different strategies],” Gill said Thursday. “[Tonight] is one big brainstorming session.”
Those present split into three groups to speak to the issue most important to them, and the group discussing immigrant-police relationships, comprised of more than 40 residents, was by far the largest.
Attendees highlighted checkpoints targeting immigrants, the lack of valid IDs available to undocumented immigrants and a language barrier between officers and immigrants as the major problem areas in police-immigrant relations.
“The ID is the most important solution to all of these problems,” said one woman via a translator. “We have to have IDs. We pay taxes whenever we go to the store; we deserve this. It solves a lot of the other problems. We can’t live here without ID. Our children are given IDs when they go to school; how come we can’t get IDs?”
Don Kovasckitz, Sanford’s geographic information systems administrator, joined the group discussing government communication.
“We discussed providing Spanish translations of both city and county government websites,” Kovasckitz said Friday. “We also discussed additional involvement in local government by our local Hispanic groups, how they can run for office. There were some really sharp people in that group. They had a lot of great ideas. The biggest one was getting government websites and announcements available in Spanish.”
Sid Morgan, transportation coordinator for the County of Lee Transit System, said the discussion on public transportation led to some concrete ideas he hoped to implement before the end of the year.
“We were really shocked and surprised how little [the Latino community] knew about our public transportation system,” Morgan said. “We know we’ve got our job cut out for us as far as going out and re-marketing to this segment of the population.”
Morgan said he hoped to add stops to the COLTS routes to better accommodate Hispanic residents, which constitute almost 20 percent of Lee County’s population but just 3 percent of COLTS clientele.
“There are some concentrated areas where Hispanics tend to live together,” Morgan said. “And we’re going to look at those areas and try to get them the transport they need, especially going into the winter months.”
Gill said Thursday’s meeting was the first step in creating feasible, sustainable plans to improve immigrants‘ relationships with their city and county.
“We’re very happy with the participation of Latino community members in this ongoing work,” Gill said Friday. “And we’re appreciative of all of the great ideas that were shared.”
For more information on BIC and to find out about future meetings — which have not yet been scheduled — and BIC events in Lee County, join the LMP’s email list at migration.unc.edu/email.
Credit: The Sanford Herald, N.C.