The Hispanic population continues to grow rapidly in the state of Georgia. Since the last census of 2010 to date, it has increased 32%. However, minority leaders in that state are concerned that constituency residency will be used to disempower immigrant communities, so they demand representation in the process.
Every decade, Georgia lawmakers come together to draw new district lines that reflect demographic changes in the state’s population, according to census data. The goal in theory is to ensure a fair representation of all Georgians.
Two weeks before Georgia’s special redistricting session begins, Ethnic Media Services brought together several minority leaders from that state in the video conference “The Stakes in Georgia’s Redistricting Process : fair representation for immigrant communities ”.
Anh Nguyen, a demographer for the Census Bureau in Atlanta, clarified that the purpose of the redistricting is to redistribute 435 congressional seats among the population after the census.
“For example, California for the first time in its history lost one seat in Congress, the state of Texas won three more and Florida one more. There were no changes in the state of Georgia which has 14 seats. “
It showed that Georgia is among the 5 states with the highest population growth in the last decade. An increase of 10.6% between 2010 and 2020, compared to the national average growth of 7.4%.
In Georgia, the greatest growth occurred in counties with the largest immigrant and refugee populations.
“The Asian population grew 55%; and the Hispanic population, 32%.
Karuna Ramachandran, director of state alliances with the Atlanta organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice, recalled that redistribution is the process of adjusting the population within the lines of voting districts.
“It is a good thing because it takes us to the beginning of a person, a vote. We must all have equitable representation under the law. “
But said that they are concerned that this process is being used to disempower immigrant communities to vote and elect candidates of choice, when populations are growing at a very rapid rate.
“We should have more representation in government, not less. And that is why we are very concerned ”.
He said that unfortunately the legislature does not have a process that includes public participation in the design of the maps, even though they have often advocated for their involvement.
“If we don’t have a way to participate, how can we safeguard our voting districts, and ensure that our communities are not tampered with.”
He revealed that they sent a letter to the Georgia legislature, with 63 signatures from organizations in which they demand greater access to the process and the language, as well as transparency because the state is more diverse than ever. “At least one in 10 Georgia residents was foreign born. And by doing the process in English only, immigrant communities are deliberately excluded. “
He added that legislators need to hear from their constituencies, who are not satisfied with this process.
María Rosario Palacios, founder of Georgia Familias Unidas, said that access to the language has been denied to them in their communities throughout this process.
“Many of our members have reminded legislators how important it is to include languages that our people can hear.”
He asked you to think about the vibrant Puerto Rican communities throughout the state of Georgia. “Being displaced by Hurricane Maria, they found a home in Georgia, but they have not exercised their right to vote as citizens of the United States.”
He also said that in Gainesville, they have the second largest district of Latino voters; And in many school systems, more than 70% of the people are from Latin American countries. And he pointed out that there are Mexican communities where they do not have sidewalks and run the risk of being run over. Why has this happened?
“The only answer I can really give you has to do with an underrepresented redistricting process, elected officials who don’t care about districts with Latino voters, because they can vote and please large constituencies.
“This has real and lasting intergenerational impacts for our community members and is something we should address, and we should have taken action a long time ago when the many immigrants from Mexico, Central America and South America came to build the poultry capital of the world that feeds everything. the country”.
Glory Kilanko, founder and president of Women Watch Afrika, stated that the way the district lines are drawn will determine the political representation and the weight of their voice.
“I mean the language of redistricting is foreign to my community because we don’t even have a word that defines what redistricting is. But we know, in simple terms, that from the process of drawing the district lines, public officials are elected.
He said he is concerned that communities will be divided because it will further diminish representation, and it will have very devastating impacts, including the health of a large number of the community they serve.
“We have been fighting for the lack of health insurance in the vast majority of the members of our community who work in chicken factories or meat processing plants, and who were the first to be fired by covid-19.”
He did see that if redistricting is done correctly, it will accurately reflect changes in population and racial diversity.
But they worry that if the registration process is not transparent, it will make them invisible and history will repeat itself.
“This will help disenfranchise communities of color. For us, a good redesign means that there will be good roads, schools, affordable housing and hospitals ”.
Victoria Huynh of the Center for Pan Asian Community Services, an organization that serves 70,000 people a year who speak more than 25 languages, said they view redesign as a matter of public health, transportation, education, immigration and issues that are relevant to the immigrant and refugee communities.
And he wondered how long their voices will not be heard, and if they will continue to be ignored and fragmented. “As a person who worked for the Census and who knows the importance of information for legislators, my goal is to make sure that the opinion of the community is heard in order to draw the lines.”
Therefore, he said they will continue to pressure elected officials to share the process and make sure communities understand redistricting and how it impacts their daily lives.