Digging Deeper: A Conversation with ¡HICA!

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One of the bigger hopes I had for this project was to shine a light on not just the organizations doing the work in Red States (and throw them some money), but maybe have a conversation with the people working there. Out here in a Blue State, it’s easy to forget the work of the folks on the ground, and even sometimes fail to understand why they stay in a place that we perceive as oppressive.

After I put up my first post and made my first donation this morning, I felt so grateful that Holly Hilton the Development Director at HICA reached out to me as I was writing an email to the organization’s info box. It was a sign!

Holly kindly shared some photos with me and answered a couple of more in-depth questions I had about HICA’s work in Alabama.

 Why is it critical to serve the population you support in the state where you are?

Alabama, and the South in general, is a new destination state for Hispanic immigrants. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the population grew by nearly 150%, resulting in Hispanics accounting for 5% of the total population. Unfortunately, Alabama is not prepared to welcome our new neighbors. Infrastructure to serve Spanish-speaking individuals is lacking. For example, most municipalities have no Spanish speaking police officers and schools are hard pressed to engage parents in their children’s education. In 2011, Alabama’s legislature passed HB56, called the harshest anti-immigration law in the country. ¡HICA! was a plaintiff in the lawsuit that overturned most of the provisions, but there are some lingering implications.

¡HICA!’s goal is to make Alabama a more welcoming state. We facilitate two-way integration: helping the host community learn about and include our wonderfully diverse newcomers, and offering programs to help immigrants integrate into the economic, social, and civic life here. We believe that there is strength in diversity, and that Alabama will become stronger and more resilient when everyone’s talent is fully engaged.

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What will HICA’s main focus(es) be in 2017?

Our game plan for 2017 shifted on November 8th, when Trump was elected as president. The aftermath of the election felt like an earthquake had shaken our community; we feel targeted in a way we never have before. Even on that first morning after the election, the Latinas in our office said they felt like they were being stared at by other drivers on their commute to the office. Families are scared they will be separated; youth who have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) are at risk for losing this legal status that allows them to work and attend college; children are experiencing bullying because of their heritage.

Our new game plan is, most importantly, to stand in solidarity with the Hispanic immigrant community. ¡HICA!’s role in the changing political landscape is to provide accurate information to the community and stand up against xenophobia and hate speech. We are organizing Know Your Rights workshops so people know how to protect themselves; informing through social media and charlas/talks about what to expect as things evolve; and working with grassroots leaders and our partners to organize and fight for justice for Hispanic families.

In 2017 we will continue to strengthen individual community members by: screening immigrants to determine their legal immigration options; representing more people in naturalization cases; bring leadership training to community organizers; offering technical assistance to entrepreneurs; and preparing Hispanic youth for college and professional careers. These programs empower voters (as new citizens), build financial resources (new entrepreneurs support their families), educate the future generation (as first generation college students), and give voice to the community (through leadership training).

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While you struggle against discrimination in a red state, what is something positive that those of us outside of Alabama should know about the state or its people?

We are ready for this. The Hispanic community in Alabama is strong and demands to be heard. The silver lining of the HB56 legislation is that we learned to organize, and we have many allies. ¡HICA!’s partners in community organizing and civic actions are the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ), Adelante Alabama Worker’s Center, and Greater Birmingham Ministries.

Thank you for taking the time! Also, if you have any photos or videos you’d like me to include in the blog post that would be great.

Meghan, thank you for YOUR time! Thank you for focusing today’s post on immigrant issues. It means a lot to be recognized for our work by an ally. Lastly, thank you for making a donation – every dollar is so appreciated and so needed!

Here’s how we are put donations to work:
$50: a gift of $50 will educate an entrepreneur in a business development workshop.
$120: recurring monthly gift of $10 will provide advocacy in court for a Spanish-speaking survivor of domestic violence.
$300: recurring monthly gift of $25 will connect a family with an immigration specialist for a screening consultation.
$600: recurring monthly gift of $50 will bring a Know Your Rights workshop to a community group.
$1,000: gift of $1,000 will offer a six-week college readiness course and mentoring for a student.

Once again, I am just so thankful to Holly & ¡HICA! for having a conversation with me. They’ve set the bar high as we begin our travels around the US this season.

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