For my Semester Project, I volunteered with the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), a statewide coalition of member organizations and allies that works for the fair treatment of all people, especially immigrants. FLIC's mission is to amplify the power of immigrant communities to impact the root causes of inequality, defending and protecting basic human rights, including the right to live without fear. The organization's overall goal is to usher in a "new dawn" to progressive action regarding immigration, incorporating leadership of new immigrant generations and promotions of culture, so that immigrants and other oppressed peoples can participate fully in democracy (FLIC, 2013a). I decided to volunteer with FLIC because I am myself an immigrant and I believe in immigration reform to give opportunities to everyone living in this country.
As far as strengths, this organization has many of them. It is more than just an organization; it is an intergenerational social movement. Everyone works together for the fair treatment of all people, so there is a real sense of community and coordination. The only "weakness" that may apply is that as a coalition, the decision-making process can take some time to gain consensus among all of the groups (30 member organizations and over 100 allies in total). Luckily, everyone is united on empowering immigrants. Opportunities that this organization should use to its advantage are directly related to its perceived "weakness": there are a lot of people working towards the same goal. FLIC has a wide base of supporters and that creates a huge opportunity. Finally, a threat that might cause trouble for FLIC is simply the prejudice many people feel towards immigrants as "others" and not as equal.
As a Latino American immigrant, I see my fit with FLIC as a translator/volunteer because I agree with the organization's mission and have first-hand experience in the need for the social change it is pushing. When I first volunteered with FLIC, I participated in its Miami March for Dignity and Respect to promote immigration reform. The experience was empowering. Since FLIC works on issues like reform, citizenship, preventing detentions and deportations, farmworkers' rights, wage theft, immigrant youth's access to collect, etc. it was incredible to see all of the groups come together to "say yes to citizenship." It felt good to see so many likeminded people (yet from different backgrounds) cultivating a sense of inclusiveness.
Like I stated before, I am an immigrant myself, so I was prompted to work with FLIC because I understand the help that is needed with the process. I understand what it means to go through "culture shock," or the shock that is precipitated by the anxiety that results from the loss of familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse, as described by Oberg, so I can be a support to those who need it (Oberg, 1960, p.1). Additionally, I am completely against the current practice of separating families and FLIC is working towards helping Latinos in this regard. In a recent report entitled "Shattered Families" the Applied Research Center (APC) estimated that there are at least 5,100 children currently living in foster care whose parents have been either detained for deported and in the next five years, at least 15,000 more children will face theses threats to reunification (Wessier, 2011, p. 4). If I can do anything to help remedy this situation, I must, and I know I can do that by working with FLIC. This is even more pertinent considering that according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Florida is among the top immigrant-receiving states in the nation with approximately nine percent of its population being foreign-born (Camarota, 2012, pp. 13-14).
As soon as I got to the march, I knew I had met my people. After all, FLIC was quoted in the news stating, "We will work until there is immigration reform" (FLIC, 2013b). I know I will continue to work until there is immigration reform, especially regarding family reunification. Immigrations laws should be made to keep families together whether or not parents are deported, which means that the legal system and welfare system must be reformed to reflect this principle.
Finally, this experience has helped inspire me even more with respect to advocacy for students because minority students and immigrant children need to be better engaged. This population faces enormous barriers to education and employment, without which they cannot be empowered. According to the Migration Policy Institute, Florida's share of foreign-born population with less than a high school diploma ranks among the country's last third and its share of foreign-born with a college degree is abysmally ranked 38 out of 51 (MPI, 2011). This is particularly relevant since the latest version of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act remains stalled in the GOP-controlled House (Gonzalez, 2013). After this experience, I have a renewed sense of commitment to this cause.
Camarota, S.A. (2012). Immigrants in the United States, 2010: A profile of America’s foreign-born population. Washington, DC: Center for Immigration Studies.
Florida Immigrant Coalition [FLIC] (2013a, November 25). Florida immigrant coalition mission & history. Retrieved November 25, 2013, from http://floridaimmigrant.org/about/mission-history/.
FLIC (2013b). Univision: "We will work until there is immigration reform." Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://floridaimmigrant.org/2013/08/univision-we-will-work-until-there-is-immigration-reform/.
Gonzalez, D. (2013, August 13). A year later, immigrants face DREAM Act's limits. USA Today, p. 1.
Migration Policy Institute [MPI] (2011). Florida migration Stats. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.migrationinformation.org/datahub/state2.cfm?ID=FL.
Oberg, K. (1960). Cultural shock: Adjustment to new cultural environments. Practical Anthropology 7, 177-182.
Weisser, S.F. (2011). Shattered families: The perilous intersection of immigration enforcement and the child welfare system. New York, NY: Applied Research Center.