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Lorain Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours, Heights Friends of HOLA

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On Tuesday, January 9th, we drove to Amherst to take part in a Lorain Chamber of Commerce "Business After Hours" held at the Corktree Tavern on South Main Street. It was a very clean, professionally run establishment and we were told by Mr. Chris Nabokowski from the "Lorain Growth Association", who has frequented it over the years, that it was always a nice restaurant but perhaps due to management changes in the last few years it has gotten even better.

Besides Mr. Nabokowski, we enjoyed visiting with Mr. Spencer A. Reid and Ms. Nicara A. Garcia from "Northwest Bank" who told us about how their bank recently joined forces with several other businesses to help "El Centro" put on a Christmas fundraiser on behalf of some 46 families from Puerto Rico who have or will be resettling in Lorain.

Before we left, we spoke to a person who we have spoken with several times before who said that we are very recognizable now and that our reputation precedes us but not to worry because the reviews seem to be favorable.

 

We left to go to the Forest Hill Presbyterian Church on Monticello Blvd. in Cleveland Heights where the first meeting of the "Heights Friends of HOLA" was taking place.

Some 50 people turned out for the meeting which was coordinated by Ms. Sharon Shumaker who explained that the mission of "Friends of HOLA" was to do whatever it could to assist HOLA  in terms of advocacy, court watches, education, etc. As we know, HOLA is "an immigration advocacy organization that formed over 20 years ago to give immigrants a voice to advocate for themselves."

She introduced Professor John Flores from CWRU (who we have listened to several times previously) who spoke for a few minutes about how those of us here in the United States are not too quick to realize how big of a part our business ventures and foreign policy have played creating conditions that motivated so many people (both documented and undocumented) to come to the United States out of necessity.

Professor Flores talked eloquently about the advantages that white immigrants have historically enjoyed over people of color in terms of freedom of mobility and the right to vote and effectively challenged the concept of "my family came here legally so everyone else can too!!!!"

This is something that we hear all of the time from those who do not support constructive immigration reform and very much favor the deportations that are taking place.

Next Ms. Veronica Dahlberg, the Executive Director of HOLA, who talked about how much the agricultural industry (including nurseries) is reliant upon the its workers who are often undocumented. She went on to talk about what she herself has personally witnessed in terms of how these workers have been treated so badly by the federal authorities and how families have been torn apart by the deportations now taking place due to the policies of the Trump administration. She described the rudeness of several ICE agents, the fear of those facing deportation, and the discomforts of the ankle monitors that more and more people are being forced to now wear. She said it is like wearing a "microwave on your foot."

(Someone asked who manufactures these monitors and Ms. Dahlberg replied that she didn't know but would like to find out. During the course of the program, a person did some research and was soon able to provide us with the name of the manufacturer and that its profits have increased over 100% since President Trump took office.)

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Ms. Dahlberg went on to talk about the work of HOLA and it steps in when all else seems to be failing and organizes rallies and marches and other actions to stop these deportations which are sometimes very effective. She talked of one instance that took place last Spring wherein a caravan of cars (mostly filled with undocumented people) was put together to travel from St. Mary Church in Painesville to the Geauga Jail to challenge the pending deportation of one of the inhabitants.

A particular touching segment of the program occurred when Ms. Dahlberg introduced us to a woman named Leonor who has been enjoying sanctuary at Forest Hill Presbyterian Church since last Fall. Through the help of Ms. Dahlberg who translated for her, Leonor talked about how she has been fighting deportation for the last seven years and the pain of being separated from her husband and her children. We took a photo of the ankle monitor on her leg and soon decided that we were glad that we didn't have to wear one. Sanctuary churches were briefly discussed and it was said that it was currently the policy of ICE to leave them alone.

The program ended with Ms. Kelsey Fischer sharing with us things that we could do to support HOLA including taking part in a "blitz" at the end of January wherein for several days different HOLA supporters would be visiting the offices of U.S. Senators Brown and Portman as well as several local U.S. Congresspersons every hour and voicing their concerns about our current immigration policies. Such actions are important because they are only mildly disruptive to the office staff and keep the issues in the forefront.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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