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Immigrants In City Heights And Across The U.S. Struggle To Be Heard

America By The Numbers
Immigrants In City Heights And Across The U.S. Struggle To Be Heard
GuestsMaria Hinojosa, correspondent PBS Need to Know, America By The Numbers: Clarkston Georgia Norma Sandoval, a San Diego Organizing Project volunteer who grew up in City Heights. Robert Montgomery, regional resettlement director for the International Rescue Committee In San Diego.

Both sides in the presidential race say getting out the vote will be a crucial factor in determining who wins this November. But getting out the vote can mean more than determining the winning candidate.

In immigrant and underserved communities, improving voter participation can make the difference between getting resources from the government and seeing crucial infrastructure and civic needs go unmet.

Activists in City Heights are working to sign up voters to get that community's voice heard in city politics. And those efforts are mirrored in immigrant communities across the nation. A new documentary, "America By The Numbers With Maria Hinojosa: Clarkston Georgia," focuses on the struggle to be heard.


Award-winning investigative journalist Maria Hinojosa talked to KPBS about her film. It focuses on Clarkston, Ga., a small town of 7,500 people that has gone from being 90 percent white in the 1980s to less than 14 percent white today. Once a gathering place for Ku Klux Klan cross burnings, Clarkston is now home to thousands of refugees from across the globe, including Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq and Bhutan.

Hinojosa said some of these people have never truly had a homeland.

"So for them to vote, it's a historic moment," she said.

She said that feeling is passed on to their children. She hopes to see in immigrant communities that people are "owning the power to vote."

"If you are engaged, if you own your voice, which is the essence of democracy, you in fact own your power, own this notion that we can change," she said.


But Norma Sandoval, a San Diego Organizing Project volunteer who grew up in City Heights, said because that community's population is so young, they may not always be informed.

"The power structure right now is mostly given by the white, older generation," she said.

As an educator, she works to inform her students "so that they can make a change in their community."

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Watch Preview: America by the Numbers on PBS. See more from Need To Know.

In this NEED TO KNOW Election 2012 special, Maria Hinojosa visits one of the country’s most surprisingly diverse communities, a home to residents from more than 40 countries who speak more than 60 languages and dialects. Clarkston, Georgia, a town of 7,500 people, was 90 percent white in the 1980s; today, it is less than 14 percent white. The program looks at how a rising multicultural population may influence American culture and affect the 2012 presidential election.

Corrected: May 26, 2024 at 1:51 AM PDT
Claire Trageser contributed to this report.