Latino nonprofit fields calls from worried clients after election

When staffers of the Acworth-based nonprofit Ser Familia opened the office Wednesday, they were met with dozens of anxious voicemails from the local Latino community.

Should I keep my children home from school?

Are we safe?

The kids are crying.

Do we need to leave the country?

Copious voicemails were recorded, but a similar message continued to manifest in all of them. Callers were fearful of how a Trump presidency might affect them. The president-elect promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, with Mexico footing the bill. The wealthy New York businessman also pledged to institute a nationwide clampdown on illegal immigration.

A recent, pre-election day survey by the Pew Research Center found that most Trump supporters—66 percent—consider immigration a “very big problem” in this country. That’s compared to 17 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters.

Still, his plan to build a wall also struck a cord with a vast number of his supporters.

“Mainly people were afraid,” said Belisa M. Urbina, co-founder and executive director of the Acworth-based nonprofit that aims to strengthen Latino families with workshops, retreats and educational programs. The Acworth office received more than 60 calls, but she says the amount of concerned calls declined once the organization issued a statement responding to the palpable apprehension. Urbina is not sure how many calls came in at its other offices in Buford and Marietta, or how many discussions were had over email or on the 15-year-old organization’s Facebook page.

“I don’t like to terrorize people,” she said. “I try to be calm. Our message is there is nothing to be afraid of. We have to give the president-elect the opportunity to get into office and then see, in reality, what is going to happen. Sometimes, people say things in the campaign that don’t become law in reality. We tried to reassure people. You’re not going to get anywhere instilling more fear and uncertainty.”

In response to the heightened level of concern, Ser Familia posted an official statement from the organization on its Facebook page.

"In this time of uncertainty we have to stay calm," the statement said. "Even though the election results might be surprising, the response of our Latino community has to be the same. Let's keep fighting to give our families a better future.

We can’t allow our kids to skip school. We can’t miss work time. We have to show that we are part of this community and that we won’t disappear.

We don’t know what is going to happen in January when the new President of the United States comes into office. What we do know is that our community will continue to show the rest of the country, the great value of our Latinos.”

She said many of the adults her organization serves are documented residents and nearly all of their children are.

“Many of the children terrorized today are American citizens,” she said. “They’re part of this country. This is home for them, but today they are afraid in their home.”

Ser Familia annually provides services to more than 4,000 people, most of whom are from Mexico.

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