As part of our mission to stand with refugees and migrants, LIRS works to empower refugees and LIRS network partners to engage in advocacy on both local and national levels. Our network partner, Lutheran Services of Georgia, recently took part in a fantastic grassroots effort – sponsored in part by the LIRS Local Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy initiative!
Last month, staff from Lutheran Services of Georgia and several refugees from the community participated in the fifth-annual New Americans Celebration in Atlanta, Georgia. Hosted by the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA), the New Americans Celebration is an annual day of education and outreach for refugees, immigrants, and Georgia community members who support them.
The event this year was attended by over 250 people – 35% of them were visiting the Georgia Capitol for the first time! – and the LIRS network was represented by the delegation from Lutheran Services of Georgia (LSG).
With a focus on advocating against several harmful bills, the group from LSG dropped off materials to all the legislative offices and then requested meetings with lawmakers. While some lawmakers were unavailable to meet, the LSG delegation was able to bring their stories and experiences before Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point) and Rep. Mickey Stephens (D-Savannah).
“Lots of great collective action was done today – we got our message across with phone calls, letters, and especially the in-person presence during hearings and visits with legislators,” said Aimee Zangandou, Performance Improvement and Compliance Program Manager for Lutheran Services of Georgia.
All told, participants in the New Americans Celebration were able to engage 44 lawmakers in conversations about the future they wanted for their communities – and advocate against bills that threatened the fates of refugees and immigrants in Georgia.
Among the bills of concern was SB 452, Ensuring Necessary Deportation (END) Act. This bill would require local law enforcement agencies to detain any undocumented person with whom they come into contact and turn them over to federal authorities.
Thankfully – and, perhaps, as a result of the community’s strong advocacy efforts – this bill has not gained much traction.
“The Georgia legislature session closed on March 29 and we were happy that were no anti-immigrant, anti-voting rights, anti-LGBT, anti-women, or anti-health bills that came through,” said Zangadou. “I know that there still is a lot of work to be done here in Georgia but we are happy with how this legislature session ended.”