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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Activists targets immigrant voters - The Clarion-Ledger

Activists targets immigrant voters - The Clarion-Ledger
Home | Mississippi News
July 1, 2004
Activists targets immigrant voters

By Matt Hinton
mhinton@jackson.gannett.com

Forty years after hundreds of volunteers from around the country converged on Mississippi for Freedom Summer, another group of young activists is following in their footsteps.

New American Freedom Summer, composed of more than 100 mostly student volunteers, was in Mississippi Tuesday and Wednesday on their way to register new immigrant citizens to vote in Florida and Arizona.

The original Freedom Summer in 1964 was an effort coordinated by several students' groups to help kickstart voter registration among disfranchised black Mississippians.

The program is designed to be an intensive training program in civic participation and mobilization based on the Freedom Summer model, said coordinator Andrea LaRue.

On Tuesday, Students attended panel discussions in Canton on Civil Rights held by original Freedom Summer organizers, including Hollis Watkins, Dave Dennis and the Rev. James Orange.

The volunteers on Wednesday toured the state Capitol and civil rights landmarks including the former home of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Jackson, the city hall where high school activists were arrested and jailed in McComb and the site of 14-year-old Emmett Till's murder in Greenwood.

Just under 60 percent of Hispanics eligible to vote nationwide are registered, according to the Miller Center for Public Policy at the University of Virginia. That number lags behind both white and black voters, who are registered at 72 and 66 percent, respectively.

Many of the volunteers involved in New Freedom Summer are children of immigrants who understand the difficulties new citizens can encounter.

"Many times [immigrant citizens] are denied their rights or don't know they have them," said Lakshami Sridaran, a 20-year-old University of California-Berkeley student from Atlanta whose parents immigrated from India.

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