(Above, inset: lr): Anh Nguyen, Census Bureau demographer; Karuna Ramachandran, director of Nationwide Partnerships with Asian Americans to Advance Justice-Atlanta; Victoria Huynh, Pan-Asian Community Services Center; Glory Kilanko, Founder and CEO of Women Watch Africa; and Maria Rosario Palacios, founder of Georgia Familias Unidas. (Silicone / EMS)

At a briefing from Georgia Immigrant Rights Alliance and Ethnic Media Services on Georgia’s redistribution process and what is at stake for the state’s rapidly growing immigrant and refugee communities.

Every decade, Georgia state lawmakers draw new electoral district maps to reflect the population ships documented by the census. The goal is equal representation for all Georgians, but what does representation mean?

It’s about more than the right to vote. The point is to have your vote count so that when you call your representative you get a response because the incumbent knows you represent a community, a voting block he or she cannot ignore.

What if you vote in a constituency with much larger constituencies that don’t share your interests? What if your community isn’t even visible to the electorate; What if lawmakers move districts to consciously reduce your community’s influence in favor of communities they know, vote for; what can you do? These were some speakers for questions – Anh Nguyen, Census Bureau demographer; Karuna Ramachandran, director of Nationwide Partnerships with Asian Americans to Advance Justice-Atlanta; Victoria Huynh, Pan-Asian Community Services Center; Glory Kilanko, Founder and CEO of Women Watch Africa; and Georgia Familias Unidas founder Maria Rosario Palacios – explored the briefing just two weeks before the state’s special session on redistribution began.

For months, the Georgia Immigrant Rights Alliance has engaged members of the community through zoom meetings, holding webinars on drawing maps, and speaking at hearings to demand fair representation of where the process is at stake and what that group of advocacy groups is next will plan.

Anh Nguyen, demographer and data dissemination specialist at the Census Bureau, gave an overview of the population vessels in Georgia compared to nationwide changes and presented the tool that is available to the public for accessing the data.

“The census found that there are more than 331.4 million people in the United States. More than 348,000 live abroad. This is the so-called population distribution for the purpose of redistributing the 435 congress seats among the population at once every 10 years after the ten-year census. There are some changes across the board, for example California is losing a seat in Congress for the first time in its history. Why the state of Texas added three more. There were no changes in the state of Georgia, although Georgia won more seats in Congress in the 2000 and 2010 census, Georgia zero this time, and Florida one more seat in Congress.

“If we look at demographic change, Georgia has actually been one of the top five population increases over the past decade, Georgia with a population of more than 10.7 million. This reflects the state’s growth of more than a million people over the past decade, a change of 10.6 percent between 2010 and 2020. The national growth rate was 7.4 percent, so Georgia’s growth is 10.6 well above the national average. The category “another race” seems to be trendy and comes from the last census.

More than 52 million people reported “another race”.

“The electoral registration landscape in the state of Georgia is not the result of the 2020 census; in fact, the census conducted a supplementary poll right after the presidential election,” said Nguyen.

“Basically, redistribution is a good thing because it brings us to the principle of one person, one voice. We should all be represented equally under the law. However, we fear that this process is being used to remove the voting rights from immigrant communities in order to take away our power to vote for candidates, and since our population is growing very quickly here in the state, we should have more representation in government, not fewer. We are very concerned about that. Unfortunately, our legislature does not have a procedure that provides for the transparency of public submissions that allow the public to comment on draft cards. Lawyers have repeatedly asked for a process that our community can be involved in because if we don’t have a way to get involved, how can we protect our constituencies, how can we make sure our communities are not overwhelmed, ”Ramachandran said.

“We asked for language access because this crucial and vital process has so far only been carried out in English. It excludes so many Georgians who are more diverse than ever, ”said Ramachandran.

“In two weeks’ time the special session begins on November 3rd, the day after the local elections, and we have already received a draft congress card from the Georgian Senate.

The process that is unclear is how these cards are discussed, what inputs are made to the card designs; and when they receive input about desired changes to these proposed cards, they incorporate those changes into the drafts. These are the questions that go unanswered, but during the special session we can expect the Congress, House and Senate map of the state to be voted and passed in November, ”Ramachandran said, claiming the need for a collective message of the ethnic Media to reinforce the need for fair representation.

Maria Rosario of Georgia Familias Unidas, a collective aid organization supporting poultry factory workers, said the lack of language skills was critical throughout the process and denied fair representation to Latin American communities.

Glory Kilanko represented Women Watch Africa, a non-profit, international grassroots organization for social justice that provides a variety of services, including civic engagement, to refugees and immigrants, men and women, in the metropolitan area of ​​Atlanta, the majority of whom are from Africa.

“Women Watch Africa are currently bringing 23 African nations into the discussion about redistribution. It is important to have a strong understanding that this is a once in a decade process.

“The way district boundaries are drawn will determine political representation, resource allocation and the weight of our voice. Redefining language is alien to my community. We don’t even have a word that defines what redistribution is.

“Since the 2020 census, Women Watch Africa has been committed to ensuring that our voice is heard in the ongoing redistribution process in the state of Georgia. We started talking about being visible so that we as a community can make the impact we need. We fear that the division of our communities will further reduce the way we are represented and that our communities will fall apart, which will have very devastating effects, including negative effects on the health of a large number of communities that we have, who are already struggling with a lack of health insurance. A vast majority of our community members who look like me, speak some of the same languages ​​and share similar cultures, work in chicken factories and meat processing plants. They were the first to be released when COVID struck.

“The black population in the Dekalb district has increased with the 2020 census. This had made us more visible and harder to ignore. If done fairly, this redistribution will accurately reflect population changes and racial diversity, and should be used by lawmakers to assign representation in Congress and state lawmakers alike. Women Watch Africa fears that history will repeat itself when a bridge is built to divide our community if the redistribution process is not transparent and therefore makes us invisible. This further disenfranchises color communities.

“For us, redistribution means good roads. It’s about numbers and representation. It means schools, affordable housing, and hospitals to name a few. We all need to be involved in the process. We should keep up to date with the plans to relocate state and county lines. We are available to attend all of these meetings and plans whenever they are presented and assessed. We gave this loan to our legislators, but the goal of the redistribution is to ensure fair and effective representation for all and that is what we are asking, ”said Kilanko.

Victoria Huynh represented the Center for Pan Asian Community Services, which helps immigrants and refugees in over 25 different languages, approximately 70,000 people per year, with comprehensive health and social services, and does advocacy and capacity building work.

“When we look at redistribution, we see it as a public health problem. We deal with transportation issues, education issues, immigration issues and issues that are very relevant to our immigrant and refugee communities, ”said Huynh.

“There were already barriers preventing our communities from completing a census, and we knew how important that was. If our communities did not complete the census, there would be a lack of resources that would go to schools, homes, and even representation rights. Who will represent the communities if our communities are not in the data? ”Said Huynh.