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'There’s an immediate crisis in their lives' | Georgia's Latin American Association sees increase in immigrants seeking help

The LAA said it has received a record number of immigrants in its office this month. They need food, clothing, and monetary donations now more than ever before.

ATLANTA — The Latin American Association said it has received a record number of immigrants in its office this month, ever since the group began serving the community exactly 50 years ago.

Now, its CEO, Santiago Marquez, said they're in urgent need of food, clothing, and monetary donations.

“There’s an immediate crisis in their lives, for these families who have come with nothing," Marquez said. "As you can imagine, the folks that we’re seeing are coming with absolutely nothing. All I’ve been seeing them come in with is the clothes on their back."

LAA said it has been receiving an average of five people daily in the last months, totaling about 25 people weekly. Some are coming alone, and many with children.

"I was able to speak with a couple of families and they told me they went through Colombia, it took them six months to get here by foot," Marquez added. "I think the conditions must be pretty horrible in their country for them to take that risk."

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Marquez said 98% of them are coming from Venezuela, and that most are here seeking asylum. The LAA is one of the only organizations in the state that has immigration attorneys on hand.

"Our immigration attorneys can help analyze their status and I think a lot of people assume that just because they make it to the United States and claim asylum, it’s a guarantee and it's not," he added. "There’s a lot that goes into it that takes some time. The whole key here is how can we stabilize them immediately and get them short-term housing as their status and situation is being analyzed."

Credit: Provided.

Since the start of the summer, the LAA has seen an influx of immigrants coming from Texas, with more than 130 individuals from Venezuela and Central America in need of assistance.

Greiskeily came with her four children to Georgia last week.

"A church paid for my airplane to come," she said in a Spanish interview that has since been translated to English. 

The LAA is helping her get clothing for her three boys and one daughter, and helping her find transportation to get to her family in Florida and New York.

"I’m really grateful, they’ve helped me a lot," she said.

The rise in migrants, combined with inflation and the pandemic, means there’s an urgent need for donations, even more than ever before.

“A couple of days we had folks who were sleeping outside of our building, there were folks here waiting for us," Marquez added.

Many shelters are now at capacity, and housing is getting harder to afford.

The LAA uses donations as unrestricted funding to help place these families in temporary housing in the metro Atlanta area for about one week until they find a more permanent solution. During that time, they tend to call their partners and shelters to see where they can be placed long-term.

“In some cases, the shelters are demanding IDs," he said. "Some of these folks don’t [have one]."

The LAA needs immediate help to feed, clothe, and house these families. The children need a place to stay or money to pay for hotels while shelters free up.

If you are interested in helping, click here to donate. 

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Read more on the LAA and its services:

"The mission of the Latin American Association (LAA) is to empower Latinos to adapt, integrate and thrive. Our vision is ‘Opportunity for All.’

The LAA achieves its mission through five (5) focus areas: Civic Engagement & Advocacy, Economic Empowerment, Youth Services, Family Stabilization & Well-Being, and Immigration Services. Each focus area includes a targeted menu of direct services, large-scale events and advocacy to realize significant community impact and affect systems level change."

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