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Expert Voices

A Reminder of Georgia’s Deep Immigrant Community

Published June 24, 2024
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Written by Crystal Munoz, CVT Georgia Communications & Policy Consultant

Growing up as a child of immigrants, one gets a front row seat to the immigrant experience. My youth and adulthood are filled with memories of having to navigate difficult language barriers and explaining cultural differences to both my parents and the non-immigrants we interacted with. 

This experience is not uncommon to other children of immigrants; however, that is not everyone’s story. 

Introduction to Clarkston, Georgia 

Early in my career, I was ignorant of the experiences of other immigrants. It was not until I joined a meeting for the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA) that I learned about Georgia’s long history of welcoming refugees. 

I learned about Clarkston, the most diverse square mile in America, and all the wonderful organizations that help newcomers survive and adjust to life in Georgia. Refugees often face significant challenges, but Georgia’s support system helps them become self-sufficient within months – a testament to the community’s resilience and the effectiveness of resettlement programs. 

A Diverse City with Ongoing Barriers

I also learned about the New Americans Celebration and World Refugee Day, both massive events that have grown to be staples in this community. These events allow people to share their stories and culture but also advocate for more inclusive policies. 

As I learned more about the refugee community and became more involved with the Business and Immigration for Georgia (BIG) Partnership, I learned that many left lives and careers in their home countries. 

Arriving in Georgia, many had to start over or find new careers or jobs to provide for their families. Years of education and training were essentially gone due to our state’s inability to create inclusive policies. 

Georgia boasts about being the “number one state to do business.” This reputation attracts companies and entrepreneurs from across the nation, fueling our economy. Yet, a critical piece of the puzzle is missing from most conversations: our current workforce shortage. Hospitals struggle to find qualified nurses, schools grapple with a lack of educators, and countless positions across industries go unfilled.

Overlooked Talent

This situation becomes even more difficult when we consider the wealth of talent residing within our own borders. Many immigrants who have arrived in Georgia, seeking a better life and contributing to our vibrant communities, hold valuable skills and international credentials.  Doctors who have spent years honing their craft in their home countries are forced to take on entry-level jobs. Experienced educators with proven track records find themselves unable to translate their qualifications for positions in our schools. 

This is a talent pool Georgia simply can’t afford to ignore.

This legislative session, the BIG Partnership was championing a piece of the legislation that would help foreign trained doctors have their credentials be recognized in Georgia. Unfortunately, it failed to reach the finish line, but the support we received is encouraging. These individuals, forced from their homes by war or seeking a better life, are not just residents – they’re driving forces contributing to Georgia’s economic strength and cultural richness.

Legislators are finally listening to the stories of these newcomers and realizing that we have an untapped resource that is ready and willing to use their talents to make the state better and competitive. 

By embracing inclusive policies that break down barriers to employment and education, Georgia can unlock its full potential. Just as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 transformed my family’s life by granting them a path to legal status, similar pathways can empower newcomers to build stable lives and contribute their talents. 

Let’s champion inclusion – not exclusion – and create a Georgia where every family can thrive and future generations can call it home.

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