Wherever new immigrants go, they face significant challenges. Migrants have very high resilience and capability for integration with the members of the communities where they live, but most of the time, they struggle against social, economic, cultural and lawful impediments to move forward toward a better life due to their immigration status. However, they face them with dignity and perseverance.
For instance, in Georgia, their adaptation process is in many ways a complex issue, considering the many economic and legislative obstacles that immigrants face in their quest for further or higher education. Unfortunately, many residents believe that immigrants do not deserve an opportunity for a better education, or to obtain valid identifications or access to driving licenses. This is hard to understand, considering that an inclusive, better educated and empowered community provides better opportunities for everybody.
Nevertheless, some remarkable initiatives of understanding and acceptance have been carried out in this great city and in this state. Such is the case of “Welcoming Atlanta,” an initiative that promotes inclusion and welcoming to build a multicultural community in metro Atlanta. According to Welcoming Atlanta, the city boasts the second-fastest-growing foreign-born population in the United States. The city government of Atlanta recognizes the richness of the cultural and economic contributions of these communities, and that makes a lot of sense.
Since Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced in May 2014 the creation of Welcoming Atlanta, this initiative has focused on five key areas of immigrant integration: ensuring equitable access to services; expanding educational opportunities; facilitating economic empowerment; enhancing public safety and fostering a connected community; and building immigrant civic engagement and leadership. Through this initiative, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs was established, which has been working as the liaison between the city of Atlanta and the immigrant and refugee community. The goals of this office are, among others, public safety, community engagement and economic development.
Here is some hard data that may provide an overview of the importance and contribution of the Latino and Mexican community to Georgia: 1 in 10 Georgians are Latinos; in 2014 the purchasing power of Georgia’s Latinos was $17.6 billion (an increase of 1,232 percent since 1990); and Latinos in Georgia paid $1.9 billion in federal taxes, and $1 billion in state and local taxes in 2013.
Mexico’s importance for Georgia in terms of our economic relationship is surprising to many. Mexico is Georgia’s fourth-largest trading partner in the world, after China, Germany and Canada. Our bilateral trade reached $9.7 billion dollars in 2015; but more importantly, Mexico is the second-largest buyer of goods from Georgia, after Canada. Georgia exports to Mexico reached $3.4 billion in 2015, when Mexico accounted for 9 percent of Georgia’s exports worldwide.
Besides the above mentioned, Georgia’s exports to Mexico have grown at an annual average rate of 10.2 percent in 21 years since NAFTA came into force; Georgia is the 11th U.S. state in exports to Mexico. Georgia has increased its exports to Mexico more than 200 percent since NAFTA started. The top exports from Georgia to Mexico are: insulated wire, aluminum sheets, gas turbines, civilian aircraft and related engines and parts, and refrigerating or freezing equipment. And on the other side, these are Georgia’s top imports from Mexico: insulated wire, televisions, motor vehicles, refrigerators or freezers, internal combustion piston engines, and lamps and light fittings.
Mexico and Georgia share a strong and vibrant relationship, since we are very important to each other. We are business partners and we share an interest in common prosperity.
Mexican migrants moving to Georgia embrace a dream for a better life. We must understand their ideals and needs, but also recognize their daily contributions to the economy and social fabric of Georgia. We encourage them to be proud of their roots, their culture and the place where they come from, but also to be an integrated, empowered and vocal part of the communities they live in.
Javier Díaz de León was appointed as the consul general of Mexico in Atlanta in June. He previously served as consul general in Raleigh, N.C., and as deputy consul in New York and San Diego, Calif.