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FLOC meeting shines light on discrimination

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Samantha, facing the camera, hugs her sister, Jenny, 17, who cries after speaking about her mother's deportation. The women, who didn't want their last names given, attended the FLOC event.

The Blade/Lori King
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Illegal immigrants have a tough life.

One of them, Ana, who is 22 and lives in Pemberville, said yesterday she "crossed the river" 10 years ago with her family to come to the United States from Mexico.

The woman, who did not want her last name used, expected big opportunities, "but what she really encountered was a lot of discrimination," she said quietly through an interpreter at an event organized by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee.

"She's been looking three years for a job and hasn't found one," her interpreter, Linda Alvarado, a graduate student at the University of Toledo, explained.

"She's even applied at factories, where they ask if she speaks English. No, she doesn't speak it well. She applied for a secretarial position, and two women said, 'You're sure you're not here to apply for a job cleaning the bathroom?'•"

With the question of what to do about illegal immigration still unanswered at the federal policy level, FLOC convened a gathering of about 50 people yesterday at its 1221 Broadway offices to bring attention to the issue.

FLOC urged attendees to work for legislative changes that would give illegal immigrants a shot at legal status.

The event, called "Building Tolerance," was based on the premise that discrimination against immigrants is on the rise. Speakers made no distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, but the latter was what they had in mind.

FLOC secretary-treasurer Beatriz Maya noted that 19th and 20th-century immigrant groups also encountered hostility.

Immigration law, if it existed then, was lax, and many of the immigrants who came to the United States would not qualify today, she said.

But it was the accounts of illegal immigrants such as Ana and Jenny yesterday that personalized what is for most Americans an abstract subject.

Jenny, who lives in Marion, Ohio, and also did not want her last name used, said she will be eligible for deportation in two weeks because she will turn 18.

In unaccented, educated English, Jenny told the gathering she arrived in the United States with her family when she was 7. She said she hasn't suffered discrimination, but she wants to finish high school and go to college.

"My mother was picked up by immigration and put away for a month," she said in a voice filled with emotion.

"That was very hard. My mom was not a criminal. The way things are going now, I don't see my mom staying here."

Among the participants was Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, who talked about her Mexican roots and how her grandparents worked in the fields in northwest Ohio.

Later, Ms. Lopez chatted in Spanish with a group of young immigrants.

"I told them that I hope that the leadership at the federal level will address this more," she said. "It's become a divisive point in our country. The leadership needs to make a decision. They won't make everybody happy. There are always two sides to a story. There are positives and negatives to both sides."

Another participant, Dallas Black, teaches Spanish at Bowling Green High School.

He said he had no answer to the immigration question, but he planned to use what he heard at the FLOC gathering in his classes.

"I'm always looking for new things to use in my teaching," he said.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.

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