April 9, 2015
By Kathryn Trogdon
At the second of three public meetings designed to gather information about the experiences of local immigrants, members of the city of Sanford’s staff learned about three of the major hurdles keeping this group from being more involved in the community: communication, transportation and education.
About 30 people gathered Tuesday at the McSwain Extension Center at 2420 Tramway Road to discuss their needs and concerns as part of the Building Integrated Communities program. Under the Latino Migration Project, BIC is a collaborative program of the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Center for Global Initiatives at UNC-Chapel Hill, which helps N.C. local governments “successfully engage with immigrants and refugee populations in order to improve public safety, promote economic development, enhance communication and improve relationships.”
Hannah Gill, the program’s director, said some of the key challenges local immigrants face, as identified at the meeting, include communication, transportation and access to education.
“With respect to communication, some folks voiced that there are sometimes communication problems between immigrants and a number of different city agencies or services,” she said.
Gill said this tied in to participants’ concerns about transportation. She said according to attendees at the meeting, there are not enough transportation options, or just a lack of information about the options available — like the County of Lee Transit System.
“Another (key issue) is access to educational opportunities, which are difficult because of legal status and expense of education,” she said.
Bob Bridwell, a deacon at St. Stephen Catholic Church, said the most informative part of the meeting was finding out that many immigrants in the community don’t feel fully accepted.
“There’s a degree of cultural misunderstanding, and a large degree of communication issues,” he said. “They just want to feel more part of the community and more comfortable interacting with the community at large.”
The Rev. Robert Ippolito of St. Stephen Catholic Church, who is a Board of Immigration Appeals accredited representative, has worked closely with Sanford’s Hispanic immigrant community for years.
“There’s a large Hispanic immigrant community here,” he said. “It’s important to get them integrated into the community and involved in the community.”
But Ippolito said one of the major hurdles that must be overcome for the project to be successful is trying to get immigrants to a more steady status.
“Being documented adds a great deal of stability to an immigrant community that’s undocumented,” he said.
The final public meeting in Sanford for the BIC program will be held sometime in May at the St. Stephen Catholic Church at 901 N. Franklin Drive. Visit bit.ly/1DKFzOn for updates.
“After these meetings, we start talking about what are some different strategies that we can come up with to address some of these problems,” Gill said.
Source: The Sanford Herald