Dispatches from Georgia: Hungry for Justice

Guest Blogger • Aug 09, 2011

by Carla Nicol Argueta

A delegation of students and activists were in Atlanta for a week to document efforts to resist anti-immigrant law H.B. 87. The delegation members will be sharing first-hand accounts of their experiences with dispatches. Visit Imagine 2050 regularly for more Dispatches from Georgia.

Salvador Zamora and Martin Altamirano sat in a low-ceiling basement with part of the Georgia Delegation in order to share their story of resistance. I quickly learned from these soft-spoken men that they had begun a hunger strike in response to the treatment of immigrants in Georgia. Zamora and Altamirano started their hunger strike on July 1, the day HB87 was enacted—a bill that would drive thousands of immigrants from the state and institutionalize the unjust treatment that many immigrants had already been subjected to.

Zamora had been on a hunger strike for thirty-three days the day we met him. He had been surviving on water mixed with half a squeezed lime and a spoonful of honey, he explained as he held up the water bottle in his hand. After Zamora became ill on the 12th day of his strike, Altamirano stopped participating in the strike in order to care for him. The doctor recommended he end the hunger strike, but Zamora refused to because of his strong commitment to the immigrant families he was fighting for. He became emotional when describing how the current immigration system was hurting children and breaking families apart.

Though the hunger strike has growing support, Zamora is not free of criticism from anti-immigrant activists, such as Donald Arthur (D.A.) King, who has openly questioned Zamora and his intentions. When interviewed by the Marietta Daily Journal about the hunger strike, King, who has proven ties to white nationalist organizations and the John Tanton Network of anti-immigrant groups, stated:

“Back here on planet Earth, while holding my sides from laughter, all of this is making it very difficult to eat my chili dog.”

Despite what King’s sad posturing, Zamora is no stranger to the immigrant rights movement. When he was living in Las Vegas, NV, working at a radio station, he continuously heard immigrants’ stories of abuse and injustice as they called into the station. This experience fueled his next life changing decision. In 2009 he decided to walk from Los Angeles, CA, to Washington, DC, in order to meet with legislators and other public officials about our broken immigration system. This 2,700 mile trek took 8 months to complete.

Today’s current hunger strike is being used as tool to get the attention of the public and elected officials. Salvador plans to request a meeting with Governor Nathan Deal in order to demand the end of anti-immigrant programs and legislation in Georgia. Some of these include Secure Communities, Section 287(g), and HB87. Zamora plans to continue the hunger strike until he starts to see some progress concerning how the state of Georgia treats its immigrants.

When asked how long someone can survive doing what he is doing, he simply shrugged, “we’re going to find out.”

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