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Since the execution of Troy Davis, whose shattering story activated thousands of people across the country to speak out against a flawed justice system and the brutality of capital punishment, Georgia has been on my mind. I was born there, in a small town outside of Atlanta called Austell, and spent many summers in Newnan with my grandparents. Both sides of my family can be traced back there, some as colonists and some from the Cherokee tribe that called Georgia home. For my entire childhood, Georgia represented the soothing, simple life, the one I felt connected to in my blood. Now, as I sit in the midst of my suitcase and talking points and pack for the delegation trip to Atlanta, I am filled with so much heartache… and even shame.

I was invited to join this delegation and bear witness to the testimony of immigrant women and children because of my work with trafficked and exploited migrant women workers here in the DC area, and my connection to the anti-trafficking movement in the United States. I hope to learn more about the daily struggles of immigrant women there, to learn about what impact severe immigration enforcement has on women’s trust in the police. For survivors of trafficking and other crimes, being able to trust law enforcement is essential. As an advocate, I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to build that trust
and educate law enforcement about their critical role in identifying victims in immigrant communities. I will take what I learn from the delegation and continue to build the momentum for an end to laws like HB87, helping communities understand legislative cruelty by showing them human stories, and sensitizing law enforcement to their now deeply conflicted dual mission.

So, that is why I was invited, but it’s not why I decided to go.

In my heart, I needed to come back to Georgia to confront reality, to channel the heartache I am feeling and turn it into action. I want to be proud of Georgia, I want to be proud of our country, I want to be proud of my family. The US legacy of genocide, slavery, racism, and cruelty cannot be forgotten, but I am alive now, you are alive now, we can do something now. When I go to visit my father in Lindale after the delegation trip ends, I hope I can start this dialogue about Georgia with him, and I hope my friends in the South will do the same with their families.

Cross posted from the Institute for Policy Studies blog

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