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HOLA Meeting at The HUB

As its website states, "HOLA is a grassroots Latino organization based in NE Ohio focusing on Latino Outreach, Advocacy and Community Organizing" and on the evening of Tuesday, December 5th, we attended one of its meetings in this case conducted at the HUB on St. Clair Street in Painesville coordinated by Ms. Veronica Dahlberg, its Founder and Executive Director.

This meeting was standing room only consisting of local residents of Painesville of all ethnicities. Guests included Ms. Ana Padilla, a candidate for Painesville City Council in the November, 2017 elections. Ms. Padilla didn't win but made quite a good showing and received more votes than a person running on an anti-immigrant platform. Ms. Padilla, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico some 23 years ago, spoke of how she was initially hesitant about running because she had no governmental experience but was tremendously buoyed by the support that she received from HOLA and other concerned citizens. She said that it was an "amazing experience" and that it was time to start planning for the future of the community; thus, her participation in the electoral process as a candidate was only a beginning.

Other visitors were students from "Hawken School" in Chester Township who have been studying all sides of the immigration issue for the last three weeks under the guidance of their instructors, Ms. Katie Scott and Ms. Margaret Gray. Several of the students talked about what they had learned and said that it was valuable to obtain another perspective than what was presented on the nightly news. Among the people that they had heard from was an undocumented person facing deportation and several expressed a wish to try to help this individual.

Along these lines, another person facing deportation gave testimony at this meeting. She is an undocumented person from Mexico who is the mother of several children who were born in the United States and the wife of a man who is a U.S. citizen. During the Obama years, she had obtained a stay allowing her to remain in the U.S. but when she recently checked-in with the authorities she was told that she would be deported and would have to leave the U.S. by the middle of January, 2018. Fortunately, she was not taken into custody but she must wear an uncomfortable monitoring device and present proof by the end of the week that her plane ticket has been purchased to return to Mexico.

Ms. Dahlberg said that she has been confronted with similar situations on a daily basis and vowed to do whatever she could to assist this woman and people in similar positions. She and HOLA's attorney, Ms. Elizabeth Ford, talked about how the immigration authorities and the immigration courts have become more aggressive as of late in terms of tactics and procedures. 

Despite formidable opposition, Ms. Dahlberg assured us that she would continue to work to come up with creative ways to fight the deportations and was open to constructive input from everyone there. An example that she offered was what the "Freedom Riders" did back in the early 1960's to stop segregation of public buses. 

That night an especially telling moment occurred was when the teen-aged son of the woman facing deportation talked about how difficult this whole thing was for him; he wanted his family to remain intact but at the same time he was looking forward to graduating from high school here.

So for us, needless to say, this meeting was particularly powerful.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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