By Amanda Joerndt
The “Zero Tolerance” panel was brought to Youngstown State University to educate students and community members about how current immigration policies have affected local families.
In June 2018, over 150 undocumented immigrants were arrested at the Fresh Mark meat packing plant in Salem, Ohio, causing a raid to break out in the community.
The two guest speakers, Veronica Dahlberg and Pastor Manuel Lux, work in the Salem area and have a close connection to all the families impacted by the raid.
After the raid, these immigrant families went into hiding from the general public, causing them issues with providing for their families.
Dahlberg, founding executive director of HOLA Ohio, which is a small Latino organization based in Northeast Ohio that focuses on Latino outreach, advocacy and community organizing, works to help immigrant families and provides support for them in detention centers.
Dahlberg founded HOLA Ohio when she noticed immigrants moving to Ohio for agricultural jobs and wanted to provide aid for them and their families, and she said the organization has been a major resource for the families of the arrested immigrants.
“Since day one, we swung into action right after the raid happened [at the Fresh Mark meat-packing plant],” Dahlberg said. “There’s been a tremendous amount of need because the people arrested in the raid have children, so we’ve been helping them with their legal cases and economic support.”
Dahlberg said she believes students need to become more educated on immigration policies, understand the importance of this topic and how to help.
“I want the students to learn why the immigrants are here and what role they play in the state, economically speaking,” she said. “We want people to know that these are people who have been working and raising their families here and how the raids and policies have impacted them.”
Dahlberg said in her opinion, there needs to be a change in the future with the “harsh and restricting immigration policies.”
“I think there needs to be tolerance and acceptance and it has to be in the form of a policy,” she said. “Our policies haven’t been updated in 24 years, and I think it’s time for our members of Congress to sit down and change this, so our communities don’t have to live in fear.”
Lux, pastor of Iglesia Esperanza de Vida in Salem, has been working with the families affected by the raid individually, and said the church community has been walking door to door giving the families support and necessities to survive.
“The time was a great opportunity to serve the community and we help in a lot of ways,” he said. “We deliver to the houses weekly and provide food, milk and diapers for the babies because [their parents have] lost their jobs.”
Lux said he encourages the immigrant families to be engaged in church services to help lift their spirits during a time of need.
“I think we need to encourage the people to attend some form of church and to be their best people and versions of themselves within the community,” he said.
The “Zero Tolerance Panel” was sponsored by the YSU College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
Yarelis Ortiz, a sophomore philosophy major and a member of the Latino Student Organization at YSU, gave opening remarks at the panel on behalf of the organization.
Ortiz said awareness of current problems in the area will allow students to become better educated in society.
“I think it’s important for us to understand the severity of what’s going on in our world today and within our neighborhoods,” she said.
“Often times, we hear terms that we are unfamiliar with, so by just coming to the panel itself helps you understand them and what extremity the situations are,” she said.