Last Thursday, I attended the second annual Hispanic/Latino Community Forum. The program, which had about a 25 percent higher attendance over last year’s event, reminded me of what is often lost in the hot and contentious debate over immigration.
And what is lost is personal and precious — what is lost is the hopes and dreams of people who want a better life for themselves and their families. It is why, despite the rancor and ill will that we witness among lawmakers, we must realize that people are more than numbers, more than documents.
In my ongoing search of my parents’ genealogies, I have discovered amazing stories from my past. For years, I had known that my father’s family were French Huguenots who came to South Carolina in the 1600s to escape religious persecution. Later, I learned about two ancestors who fought in the American Revolution.
I now have discovered among the 1,400-plus people on our family tree that we have 30 more Patriots from both sides of our family who fought for our nation’s freedom. And I learned that, to date, our earliest ancestor came to Jamestown in 1614.
Those who came in the 1600s left lives that they had known in Europe to face the uncertainty — and hope — of a new country. They were immigrants. They, too, had dreams. Millions more followed from all parts of the world.
The Arnold School’s Institute for Partnerships to Eliminate Health Disparities, in partnership with the Consortium for Latino Immigration Studies and PASOs, developed the forum last year to expand the outreach of the James E. Clyburn Lecture Series in Health Disparities. The action of the individuals involved in planning this event was forward thinking. Few places in our state and nation have worked as hard to bring immigrants and community leaders together to share information and openly talk about needs and services.
The Hispanic/Latino Forum and the Senior Health Disparities Forum, to be held Oct. 18, reflect changes to our society — the increasing number of Hispanic and Latino families and the increasing number of seniors.
The forum gave members of the Hispanic/Latino community the opportunity to know more from area experts about pending immigration legislation, the Affordable Care Act and education services available in the Midlands. Translators were available to share the panelists’ information and to relay questions and answers. If there could be a “take away message,” it is this: People have great passion to live in our country, to help their children thrive and become successful and to provide the best life possible for those whom they love.
No doubt, some type of immigration reform will occur. The politics are left to those with whom we’ve given that responsibility.
In all of our discussions, we must never forget that the health, the hopes and the dreams of families are at stake.
It’s what brought newcomers to a strange and remote part of the world some 400 years ago. Such passion, such hope are timeless.
(Credit: Photo by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net)