12/14/11 — Billboards support immigrants

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Billboards support immigrants

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on December 14, 2011 1:46 PM

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Uniting NC photo

Billboards in support of immigrants are going up across the state as part of a campaign by a Uniting NC, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that wants to put a human face on the issue of immigration.

A Raleigh-based non-profit organization is aiming to bring its immigrant-friendly message to Wayne County in the next two months through its statewide billboard campaign.

Uniting NC will erect billboards in the Triangle area, Charlotte, Asheville and Mebane as part of its campaign to increase the state's standing as an immigrant-friendly state.

More than 250 donors helped to purchase three physical billboards -- two in Raleigh and one in Durham -- and the billboard company, Lamar, offered to find digital billboards where the group's message could rotate through as a public service announcement. That allowed the billboards to be pushed east and west from the capital.

Goldsboro's digital billboard will be located 0.2 miles west of N.C. 111 on U.S. 70 near Wilber's Barbecue and the Uniting NC message will rotate into use as a public service announcement as space becomes available, likely the last week of December. It will rotate on that billboard through January.

Uniting NC Director Kristin Collins said Lamar's generosity allowed her organization to get its message out from the mountains to the coastal plain with a fairly limited budget -- although the message differs from that of other immigration groups.

"Our message is not about policy and legislation like a lot of immigration groups. Our mission is to put a human face on immigration. When you talk about immigration you're talking about human beings," she said.

Her group organizes community events, dialogues and film screenings and utilizes multimedia to spread what she called counterpoints to the negative press that has become associated with immigration issues in recent years.

"We've seen in Alabama what's happened with the laws they've passed," Ms. Collins said. "There are certainly legitimate concerns about legal immigration, but attempts to crack down doesn't only affect undocumented workers. You have children who were born here and are U.S. citizens who are afraid to go to school. You have crops rotting in the fields. It creates this toxic climate that hurts the economy and really all the people who live in the state. We don't want to see North Carolina go down this path."

The world's economy has changed irreversibly, she says, and the only way forward is through tolerance.

"The value of being an immigrant-friendly state is that we're in a global society now and that's not going to change," she said, citing data showing increases in immigrant population in North Carolina. "This trend isn't going to reverse. We're going to have to learn how to live together or live in fear and misery."

The organization held a press conference at Que Pasa Media in Raleigh Tuesday where various spiritual leaders from Jewish, Christian and Islamic places of worship gathered to kick off the campaign.