Manuel Rafael Gallegos Lerma

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Interview topics included Manuel Rafael Gallegos Lermas' family background, his educational background, his migration to the United States, his work with the Human Rights Center of Chapel Hill, N.C. and Carrboro, N.C., and his current opinions and goals for the Latino population in the surrounding community. Gallegos believes the Carrboron, N.C. and Chapel Hill, N.C. community is a haven for most Latinos due to the understanding police force and due to the various job opportunities available. Also he would recommend this community for other migrants to live in; he does not believe our community is completed integrated due to much oppression Latinos are still facing today. As Associate Director of the Human Rights Center, Gallegos continues to develop relationships with residents at Abbey Court and now Barnes Street, where the new Human Rights Center is located. As an immigrant himself, Gallegos has developed strong relationships with many of the immigrants due to their similar backgrounds and the absence of the language barrier. Gallegos believes by being supportive and understanding of the stories of Latino immigration, the American community can help link the Latino community into our society.



Miranda Wodarski: This is an Interview with Rafael Gallegos on April 4, 2012. My name is Miranda Wodarski and I am a sophomore at UNC Chapel Hill. I am conducting this oral history project with hopes to learn more about human rights with regards to the immigrants in Carrboro and Chapel Hill in order help link the American population with the immigrant community. It is Wednesday April 4th and it is about 12:15 in the afternoon.Good afternoon Mr. Gallegos, How are you today?

Rafael Gallegos: Great, thank you Miranda.

M: Great. I was very impressed with the discussion you held in my Latinos Perspectives class with your two friends Alberto and Jose two weeks ago. I am very impressed by all of the work you have done in our community to guarantee Human Rights for everyone with the Human Rights Center in Carrboro. It was great to meet Alberto who is a day laborer immigrant in our community and to meet Jose who is a former day laborer now employed in the food industry. Your discussion, which was based on describing the difficulties of migrating to the United States, working as a day laborer, and the process of adaptation, directly relates to the Oral History Project I am working on for Hannah Gill’s Latino Perspectives class. I have already interviewed Officer Charlie Pardo, the Chapel Hill Latino Liaison Officer, and Dr. Judith Blau, the founder of the Human Rights Center in Carrboro.
I actually interviewed Dr. Blau an hour before you, Jose, and Alberto visited our class. I had no idea you'd be speaking that day but recognized your name from when Dr. Blau had spoken about your relationship with her and how you are the associative director of the Human Rights Center. My project focuses on the assimilation of Latino immigrants into the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community and now that I have spoken to both an Officer and a Human Rights Activist, I would like to speak to you, a direct immigrant to our community.
As you probably know, Latinos are today’s fastest growing minority in North Carolina. Recently the town of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and surrounding areas have seen a steady growth in this segment of the population. I am currently in a global studies course focused on Latino perspectives and Mexican immigration to North Carolina. I have recently been to Guanajuato, Mexico to grain, gain a greater understanding of the factors which fuel immigration to the United States and to gain a greater appreciation of the conditions of the sending communities. This immigration influx however, alters the dynamics of a traditionally homogenous community.
Much of the recent immigration in North Carolina is unwanted and therefore when immigrants do arrive to our community, community members become very hostile and unwelcoming towards the immigrants, creating a segregated community. One of my goals of this project is to discover why nearly half of Americans believe immigrants are having a bad influence in our community. Another goal of mine is to discover ways to overcome these negative opinions Americans have towards immigrants and to help produce better relationships between immigrants and Americans in my community. I believe your work with the Human Rights Center is a great effort to ensure that Latinos in our community are treated equally and therefore I would like to learn more about your work.
I am currently a member of the organization called Linking Immigrants to New Communities (LINC) here at UNC and I am on the “Know Your Rights” committee. Through this committee and through the process of this project, I hope to learn more about the rights immigrants are entitled to in our community and to teach other Americans and Latinos about these rights in order for relationships to grow.
I am aware that you were interviewed last March by Elise Stephenson, another student at Chapel Hill. This interview is archived in the Southern Oral History Project Database in Wilson Library at UNC and is open for all students to access and to listen to. I listened to this interview in order to learn more about Elise’s project and also to learn more about more to learn more about information about you and your profession.
I am very impressed by all of the work you have done in our community to guarantee Human Rights for everyone. I also volunteer at Abbey Court as an ESL teacher and last semester I volunteered at Frank Porter Graham Elementary as a classroom helper in a Spanish dual-language class. I am still tutoring one of the first graders in Spanish reading and writing this semester.
But, with all that being said, I would like to focus today’s interview not only on Human rights guaranteed for everyone, but on the relationships our community has with the Latino immigrant community. Dr. Blau has already answered some of my primary questions, but now it is your turn to answer some of these questions from an immigrant’s perspective. By asking you these questions, I hope learn more about the current status of the relationships between immigrants and Americans in our community and ways in which we can help. Let’s begin.

You told Elise last year that you have only one sibling in the United States and that the rest of your family still resides in Mexico. How do you feel about this situation? And how does this affect the dynamics of your family?

RG: Thank you, Miranda. This is interesting. I think unlike most immigrants my situation’s a bit different. I had the opportunity to come here with a visa and so you know, the separation that I suffer in comparison with those who are not documented is different because I always have the opportunity to go back home. The fact that my family is still in Mexico, is, is because they choose to do that and not because they can't come to the US. I think that's very different when compared with the some of the immigrants at Abbey Court or that are arriving to Chapel Hill and Carrboro and that many of them are trying to escape extreme poverty. And you know, if they had the option they would probably choose to bring their families with them. Uh which is difficult as many of the parents are aging, you know are older and so some of their kids are too young to make the trip which is extremely dangerous. So in that sense my you know, the way I see my own situation is a bit different, I do have the option to go and visit. And come back and you know, nothing changes for me but when you think about most of other immigrants in the community that don't have that luxury and there and therefore the separation they suffer it's much more profound than mine.

M: Would you prefer that your other siblings migrate to the United States as well? And if so, would you recommend the Carrboro/Chapel Hill community to be their destination? Why or why not?

RG: I currently, I would I would like for them to come to the States, the United States. I think that as you probably learned from your visit to Mexico, you know there's a lot of instability, a lot of violence, you know perpetrated by the drug cartels, tourist population, so you know there's always interest to have family back home who maybe you know, finding themselves in a cross fire or who you know, may have the misfortune be in the middle of something that the you know, that is, that would be dangerous and in itself. So because of that I would like for them to come however, they like the place they live in, they are happy, you know, being close to their relatives and family members, my older sister and brother are still in Mexico, one is attending medical school, so he's not in that situation that is would be extremely dangerous, but my other sister who is already graduated and is a chemist, you know, she does live in our home community, and you know there's some violence going on right now. So, you know, you know I would be selfish to say that I would like for them to come, but I understand that they feel comfortable and they feel that you know, if you grow up in Mexico, you know how to best navigate your own community, so that, that would try to minimize any you know, any danger. But, if they were to come to the states, I would certainly like for them to come to North Carolina and Chapel Hill and Carrboro would be a great place, I mean, you know, I'm here so therefore that would be, that would be optimal. But I think in general I would say that Carrboro and Chapel Hill are I think for some immigrants it's a haven. You know they think that the people are more open, more welcoming, the police departments are not you know, nothing that would compare to other common to other police departments in other cities. Per say Raleigh. You know Raleigh and the Wake County in general, is perceived by many immigrants that I know as an inhospitable place as far as when it comes to police to deal with the police or Sheriff's departments. Um in Orange County we still have problems with the Sheriff's department because they do a lot of the background checking and they could I mean share the de deportation proceedings but for the most part the Chapel Hill and the Carrboro police they try to stay away from that. So, you know when you have when you know that if you're because you don't have a driver's license, you know, you're not, probably going to end up in jail. They will give you a ticket and they will let you go, but other place such as Cary and Raleigh I know that some police officers will stop you, will handcuff you, will process you and then as once you’re processed and the Sheriff's department has, gets a hold of you as you're going to jail, then you know, they begin to do the background check and then they will surely can begin the deportation proceedings. And so one of things that we've been working with the Carrboro Police, and to the extent with the Chapel Hill Police, is that you know we want them to be understanding of that and I think they are for the most part. And one of the reasons they well, one of the reasons why I would imagine that there has been such a growth as you mentioned earlier is because people understand benefits of being here. I mean I think if you think of also Durham, I mean Durham I know it’s a bit different but there's an understanding that you know I guess their also a more settle community in Durham and so you know maybe possibly the networks are also good for support mechanisms. But as far as the police, as far as the community itself, as far as you know being, trying to be part of the community I think maybe Chapel Hill and Carrboro will be more, more welcoming.

M: That's great to know. You said that you have worked with Officer Pardo in the past, did you learn about the policies of the Chapel Hill Police Department on immigration issues through Officer Pardo, or how did you learn about these?

RG: We had a few meetings in the past, we have never actually done any programs, but from my understanding with, with you know speaking with him, is that he seems to be the liaison for with the Latino community, so whenever there are misunderstandings, you know he would be there and try to mediate you know between you know the people having issues with the police or with other people and I think that's a lot of a lot of the work that needs to be done in this community. You know mediation. I think that for the most part many of the Latinos who come to the US you know they are accustomed to a different set of rules, different legal systems, different you know law enforcement systems so you know it’s a big cultural shock and I think having Officer Pardo you know being part of the Chapel Hill Community you know and helping the Latino community in bridging some of the cultural gaps is very important. I know that he has been developing programs in the community, outreach programs. And he tries to work with kids and he tries to work with the community to teach them a little bit of the expectations or the you know what's expected from you know the communities here so they can better adapt. And I think that's very important, we're trying to you know to continue to work with him and see if we can also translate, transform some of the work that they do in Chapel Hill to Carrboro so that we can have you know more open community but that's still a work in progress.

M: That's a great relationship to have. Okay, you also told Elise a little bit about your education background. I am aware that you have studied in Germany, New Mexico, at North Carolina State University, and now at UNC. I am curious to know if there were any challenges you faced when deciding to study at these specific places. Was your first visit to the United States to New Mexico? Why did you not stay in Mexico for an education? Are any of your siblings studying? Why or why not?

RG: Hm. Well, my decision to leave Mexico I think happened after high school. How can I say this? I guess you don't have the same opportunities that you do in the States. Even though I mean both of my parents are teachers or educators, still you know, it’s very competitive to go into a, I mean, excuse me, a university or college. For the most part, one of the problems that I see in Mexico and that I had to deal with is the fact that a for the most part a lot of the kids, you know, wealthier kids you know they go, they have the opportunity to go to private schools. They tend to you know have a better education and so when they gets the time to go to college their much in a much better position to apply. And when you think about the amount of people that can go to college in Mexico with the amount of people that can go to college here, there is just no comparison. I think from my sister's experience I think over two, three thousand people apply and I think only about I would say three hundred of them were accepted. So, I mean your odds of going into college are very slim and so when I was you know, when I finished high school I realized that I, you know I, that it was going to be hard. At that point I had relatives in Germany who were in the military at the time and they mentioned to me that there could be some sort of, inner that I could go and visit for a year. That there was a possibility for me to go to the Department of Defense School System and complete high school and perhaps with that I will be have an opportunity to come to an American University if I wanted to. And so, I decided to take that opportunity. I went to Germany for a year I took a couple of classes that I needed to fulfill the requirements for an American diploma. And so I did that. It was not easy, how I would say that the first four or five months it was it was very difficult because you don't develop a ear for the you know, phonetics. You know and you know American you know, sounds that are very particular to, to, to you know for a language. And so that was very difficult plus you know, I decided to initially decided to go to Germany because I felt that I was very proficient in English and Germ and when I was in Mexico, I was probably one of the better students you know when it came down, when it came to English subject. So I felt that I could do it but I you know I had a rude awakening and noticed that you know what is expected at a high school level in the US is not what I was proficient at the high school level in Mexico. And so it was very difficult you know I, had a sometimes learn entire paragraphs to be able to answer essay exams. You know, I had a memorize a lot so that I could use it you know to be able to do well in classes and I think that's when I first, the first semester I went to, to an American high school I think that I spent over six or seven hours studying daily, to be able to do the homework, to be able to you know to feel that I was doing better. Uh I would say that after the first six months things got a lot easier, I think I was able to communicate, I was able to read, to understand, I mean sometimes I would sit there and watch videos you know about US history and world history and I would just sit there without having a clue you know in the first months. Later I was better and I was able to understand about you know the US history and the struggles of blacks and so then things became much more interesting for me. I was able to you know pass the classes you know I was, it was not easy but I think I did well. And then I took the you know the ACT and ended up being admitted to a military college in New Mexico, in Roswell, New Mexico. And I went there for two years for junior college; at that point I was much more proficient so I did well. I was able to manage the workload and some of the other things we were required to do. At that point, I ran out of money so I went back to Germany as my relatives still were there and I was able to work in Germany for a while. Uh and at that point I met my spouse. And we were working together. We took classes with a couple of the universities that have courses there. Which I think one of them is the University of Maryland Community College. And the other one is another college from Maryland. And we took classes through them, in different US posts. , then after a year and half I think my spouse was accepted to UN to NC State with a full scholarship so we decided to come to the States and try and so she did well and I eventually transferred my credits and was accepted as well and then we both finished from there. And then I was also wanted to continue since at that point you know the fact that the struggles academic struggles have been so great that I was very accustomed to studying to reading and so going through the you know the college in the States was not hard at all and I and I really enjoyed it and so I began to take classes in sociology and became very much interested so after completing my double bachelors in I think it was sociology and the other one was literature, Latin American literature, I decided to continue into sociology and applied to UNC and was accepted. And I've been here for four years now.

M: Great. When you were studying at these various institutions, did you come in contact with many other Mexicans or was your ethnicity unique? Why do you think this was?

RG: Well, when I was in Germany in Germany, I was probably the only Mexican. Well, former Mexican, right? , most of the other people were you know, kids of Mexican immigrants who were now soldiers and so they did have some heritage that we shared some heritage, but it was different. I mean, uh the only the people that I mostly related to were Latin Americans, kids from Latin America who were you know, both daughters and sons of people who were in the military. And who's first language was Spanish and I think that they were became my close knit group. Uh, you know, it was hard for me to relate to Mexican-Americans. You know, it was more of our gap I think. But when I went to New Mexico, the military school, was an institution that had a lot of Mexican born students whose parents were very wealthier and sent their kids to that institution for them to learn discipline and to be able to learn the good habits so you know they continue to with an education so I did have, I did meet a lot of people who were Mexicans, so that's cool but there were you know, very wealthy kids that I didn't really particularly care to know very much. Uh, but at that point I probably got along more with or I didn't I was much more comfortable talking with other Mexican Americans than native Mexicans at the time. Then come to North Carolina, I mean I think that the only; the only Latinos that I ever sp, talked to were those in my Latin American literature course. And but I would say there were very few people that shared my same ancestor or culture. Uh and the same here at UNC and UNC is still, I would think is more diverse but still you don't see a lot of Latinos on campus. Very few.

M: True. You said you obtained United States residency by marrying your wife.

RG: Hmm hmm.

M: Could you please explain this process in detail?

RG: Sure. So, when she was accepted to, to UN to NC State you know we, we made, at that point we'd been going out for several years and we you know, talked about our possibilities. I couldn't apply for a visa to come, because there was, I wasn't employed or I didn't have any relatives in the States that could sponsor me for that for me to come here. So we decided to get married in Europe and being the process of obtaining a spouse visa. Or a or a getting residency through your spouse so we started a process in Germany and then I applied then my spouse had to come here by herself for several months and while my paper in the process of being reviewed, 9/11 happened.

M: ohhh.

RG: So that certainly impacted the process but eventually I was able to get a visa, I came to the States, with a visa and then after a few years, I was able to continue doing the paperwork and so a lot of the initial restrictions that were pr place upon my status you know, were removed and I was granted the residency. Um, but it was a long process that I didn’t on my own, which is very difficult.

M: After permanently moving to the United States how were you initially treated by Americans? How would you describe the relationship, between immigrants in the Carrboro/Chapel Hill community with the American population? Do you believe your rights are guaranteed?

RG: I think that you know, like I said, unlike many other Latinos, you know I was very sheltered in the sense that when we moved back to the States, you know we moved into a University community so you have a lot a diversity, you have people that you would think are more opened minded, which for the most part I would imagine they are. And so, being the fact that we were mostly in, at NC State, or now at UNC, you know in track with a lot of Natives, per say. And my greatest exposure to Latinos has been here in Carrboro and Chapel Hill now that I've been doing work with the Human Rights Center and also part of my research where I've, I've begun to learn a lot about the hardships they encounter. You know, my initial ignorance led me to believe that because I was an immigrant myself that I would be able to easily identify some of the problems and that I would be able to help them but as I begin to work with them I realize that the fact that you know, we came here under different circumstances and the fact that I didn't have to endure as many of the precariousness they have had to endure, you know it puts me at a different, you know level in the sense that I sometimes don't know what they are going through so in the last couple of years I've been working with a lot of Latinos and I've began to understand some of the difficulties that they, themselves face or kids, their families and I think it's been an eye-opening experience for me and you know, to begin to do work with the community so that we, so that we can help and do something for them because you know, living with the uncertainty of whether or not you will see your kids tomorrow because you might be deported, you know it’s very humbling in the fact that you still get up every morning with a lot of effort, with a lot of enthusiasm to be able to provide for them, even though they tell you that after high school they won't be able to continue to go to school. You know many of them still get up and you know, hoping that things will change and hoping that their kids will do better than they did. And I think that was very humbling for me and has you know, pushed me to really try to work and help those kids. And their parents, you know, to be able endure a better quality of life because you know, I think that they could do much better.

M: Are the majority of immigrants in our community as highly educated as you are? Why do you think this is?

RG: I think I think that if we if we are thinking about Mexicans or Latinos here, I mean there’s certainly a large group of, you know, students who are from Latino heritage who are very educated but for the most part the community that I'm working with, is not. I mean there are the occasional day laborer who has attended college in Mexico who has some sort of technical degree and who has even had experience abroad but that’s few and between I think a lot of the people that come to the, especially to this area, you know are people who are trying to escape poverty and you know come from rural areas and Chiapas, and Guanajuato, and Oaxaca, Veracruz, and so you know they are trying just to improve their circumstances and whether it's working exploitive jobs or you know whether it is working for less than minimal wage, you know they do it because that's the only option and unfortunately. Even if they were educated it's very hard for them to transfer the skills to the States. I mean, if you are a nurse you know by, if you're a career nurse in Mexico and you were to come here, it's almost impossible for you to transfer those credentials to the US. Even people, even as something as as what we think is simple as being as let's say a barber, you know it's very difficult, you have to pay lots of fees, you have to go through a lot of training or re-training, as they say to be able to work here again. So you know even if they were educated it's very difficult to transfer those skills. And certificates.

M: Do you think the education status of immigrants in our community influences the way in which Americans treat each immigrant? Do you have any examples of this?

RG: So so so you're asking whether the fact that there are, they have low education levels, influences the way people perceive them here?

M: (Nods head up and down)

RG: Uh definitely. I mean if you think about it, in the States we have developed this idea of what jobs are meant for be for immigrants. Which are tend to be jobs which are underpaid extremely hazardous, things that we think that you know, you don't need to have education to flip a burger. Just as we tend to make those very dismissive comments to people, the working class people in the United States. You know, I think there's a lot of that, I think that because many of them unable to speak English they are equated with ignorance and with, you know with low levels of education. And I think in man many instances they are pushed into jobs or into their classified, in a very negative manner. And they try they try they equate you know their education level with them as individuals which is completely I think wrong in the sense that many of these people that come to the States from small communities, they have knowledge that we wish we could have. And that none of us, you know that many of us would consider ourselves ignorant about. So for instance you have people that come from Chiapas who have an amazing technique in you know using tile, tile work. You know, anyone with that type technique in the States would charge a lot of money, you know to go to fancy homes, fancy homes and be able to do the work that they do. You know, but what happens you know contractors who are greedy tend to hire those individuals for less than minimum wage and these people not knowing any better they would take those jobs and do a type of work that is very much paid, or very well paid in the United States and you know we get away with it because people think that any you know poor immigrant who have any knowledge that would be beneficial to us but the fact is that many of them are you know are very skilled with different construction techniques even within farming. They don't have an opportunity to work in farming or as farmers themselves, maybe as working for someone else but they don't have the opportunity to bring some of the techniques that they know. Um you know, talking about local economies and you know that's what they do back home and so I think our general understanding is there are types of Latinos, Mexicans, are certainly negative which leads to some of that.

M: Did you have a job when you first moved to North Carolina?

RG: (Pause) No, when I first moved here, I didn't have a job. We had, we had savings, you know which is what helped us at the beginning but I was eventually able to get a job at NC State as a office assistant worked in that job for a couple of year, I think then I was able to transfer and work at a different position but it was also as an office assistant, in the sociology department. So I was very fortunate in the sense that I was able to find a job plus the fact that we had savings and my spouse was getting a full scholarship and she was getting a _____ at that time you know we didn't have to worry as much as many other people have to worry because they have families or people to support or families to support back home. So, um, but no when I first came to the States I did not have a job.

M: Describe your intentions with the work you do with Human Rights Center here in Carrboro? Are they focused on ensuring the rights of Latinos in our community?

RG: I think that I think one of the goals it is that to make sure people who have been forgotten and for the most part for the most part are hidden in our society you know are able to have a voice. And that people have a better understanding of their hardships. And you know, Latinos certainly fit this mold, but I think most importantly it is also the fact that we need to highlight the fact that there is a lot of inequality, there is a lot of poverty, there is a lot of people living, you know a lot of homeless people, a lot of people starving in Chapel Hill and Carrboro which are (laugh) thought to be you know havens for most people, but you there's a lot of problems that we tend to neglect because we tend to believe that we are in such a great place that none like no one would have to deal with that. But I think for the most part it is, as we highlight some of the Latinos are facing I think at the same time we are also highlighting that many African Americans are facing some of the same problems. Burmese, and other middle eastern, re refugees that are here. I mean, H-refugees who are here. And I think that especially with the work that we've done with the wait staff. I mean I unfortunately in this ( )has been looked as an effort to have Latinos or immigrants but you know are goal has always been to bring awareness to the fact that a lot of people who work in the formal economy are really exploited. And you know regardless if they are Latinos or not, I think that they should have the same protections and so we have been trying to be very inclusive of most communities. The problem is that because we've been located at Abbey Court we have initially, well we have been naturally linked to Latino community but we do more work, much more work than that. I mean there are several programs that we do with RENA, or with the African American community in North, you know, Chapel Hill. And so people don't know much about that because we are in Abbey Court but I think that we are also very much engaged with other groups. But yeah, it's just making sure people understand there’re a lot of problems and that we need to work.

M: According to your experience, which rights are most commonly violated for Latinos in our community?

RG: Well, I mean if you think Human Rights I think that I think that the right to have proper shelter. I mean sometimes because the lack of documentation, they are forced to live under very difficult conditions. You know the right to have a job, a decent job, just like most people I think that's something that is also overlooked. Many of them are exploited every day. Dealing with physical, mental abuse, underpayment or no payment what so ever. So, I think you know also the right to have access to you, you know, well to be paid for the work that you do. But also, you know health care. I think that's a big problem not only among Latinos, but I think among working class people. You know they don't have access to health care. Sometimes health care is denied to them because they know they don't have insurance so therefore they won't be able to pay or there, will not be an insurance that they would pay for that. And so, I understand for many of the people have talked to me and said sometimes they just said you know, we can't help you, you need to go elsewhere. And so just think about you know access to food, shelter, to medical care, and even to the legal system. And that in many instances they are not even provided interpreters, and you know when you have to face a legal system for in which they're not at all accustomed to because in many other countries you know we, people are not used to you know, being part of the or being in the middle of a law suits or being using the legal system on their behalf. So when they come to the States they have to really work into a situation that is very difficult and complicated.

M: What does the Human Rights Center do in order to prevent these violations? Have these efforts been successful?

RG: Well, I think that we've been successful to an extent. I think that we have been successfully recovering some of the wages from some of the workers. We have, have visited, we have become active to an extent in going with some of the Latinos to the courts to you know to some of their appointments to make sure that we're able to provide some support and guidance. And also we've been we're able to repeal that ordinance that prohibited day laborers from gathering at the corner. You know at the day laborers site in Carrboro. So we were able to repeal that and enable them to stay there longer. We have worked with the police, and local officials for them to raise awareness about some of the difficulties their facing and also to develop a cultural understanding about some of the things they are seeing. And for the most part I think that we've been trying to help those young ones to get a better education and to be able to be more successful.

M: Those are great efforts. Do you think our community overall supports the efforts of the Human Rights Center?

RG: I think that I would say that most people would not be opposed to anyone you know having a living wage, having a place to live, you know health care. I think for the most part people in this community are very supportive of that. I think the problem that emerges with the Latino community is the fact that most people don't know much about them. And I think when you don't know much about people you really cannot in any way relate, which it makes it easier for you to be sympathetic because you can relate. And I think that uh as we've been doing some of the programs and some of the some of the events with the community I think that those who have attended those programs have certainly deeply touched by some of the things they hear and some of the things that happen. And some of them have become very much engaged. I would say that one of the, I would say one of the main factors for us; being successful at removing this ordinance in Carrboro it was the involvement of local activists. I mean people who were before this, before we made this public, had no idea. And many of them actually make a point of eating at the corner, at this, at this gathering area. And eating there and challenging the previous ordinance which basically prohibited anyone from gathering in this place after eleven o' clock. So some of the local activists would go there after eleven. To you know, challenge this, the local ordinance. And to illustrate the problematic the, the problematic well why well why was this ordinance problematic? And one of the things we notice is that you know those individuals who went there after eleven were not bothered at all. But if you were an immigrant and if you seemed to appear to be someone who would wait there for a job, they would be asked to leave. And so we began to illustrate, to show some of the discrimination that happens. And so this was all done by local people who, felt very passionate about this. So I think that there's a lot of good well in the community and I think that, that's why we try to do the work that we do here.

M: Do immigrants prefer to interact with you rather than with Americans through the Human Rights Center? If so, why do you think this is?

RG: Umm (Phone rings) I don't think that (Rafael stands out of his chair and picks up the phone but hangs up immediately to stop the ringing). I don't think that's the case. I think that, for the most part the few people that have tried to do work with the, with them, have been Latinos. There hasn't been a big presence of you know, non-Latinos who are trying to help. But like I said, I think that in the in the work that we did to remove the ordinance, there were a lot of a Caucasian and even African American leaders in the community who were there and that that certainly shows to them that you know we're you know, we're working, but I can imagine that it would be very difficult for someone who's not Latino to be able to break into their community. You know, you do have to understand, have an understanding of some of the hardships they endure. You have to be able to be proficient in the language, be able to understand some of things they talked about so you know that would be very hard for someone who's not Latino or has some experience with them. So I can imagine that would be more difficult.

M: Is it true that most Latino immigrants in our community still only speak Spanish? Do you think the language barrier increases the segregation of Latinos and Americans in our community?

RG: Yea, I would say so. I think I think language it's a big part of the fact that they tend to be isolated and unheard by the larger community. But it's, it's hard for them to get any proficiency because for most of the jobs that they do you know, employers are not really, they’re not going to require them to speak English. I mean if you think about it if you work you know in gardening or even construction, I mean, when they ask you to do a certain job all you know your (Phone rings) your other...(Rafael hangs up the phone again, this time placing the phone off the base to prevent it from ringing again). Basically, you learn from observing others and mostly would be people like you, so a lot of the communication that what happens are between you know, Latino people so most of it will be in Spanish. And when you do need to speak English, you know there will be probably someone who will be there to interpret for you. But for the most part, employers don't really care whether the people can speak or not because of the type of job they do. Also, if they were to be more proficient you know, they will have probably access to better jobs which is now you know the better paid and perhaps have more have a greater ability to negotiate for themselves. But you know, them being unable to speak English is also beneficial for the employer because it's, it keeps them segregated from the community, there's no way they can fight or ask for their rights. I mean, they don't understand. So you know it is like this horrible cycle that is being reinforced on a daily basis between employers and workers who aren't able to find other ways to learn the language.

M: How do you think we can make it easier for immigrants to feel more at home in our community?

RG: I think that you know, just being supportive. I think that being supportive is important. (The phone because to make a disconnection dial tone. Rafael gets up and hangs up the phone and this time unplugs it completely in order to give me his full attention.) I’m sorry. I think one of the one of the you know that I would say is when you have when you’re in a community, and you know that people care for you, are fighting for your rights, you know I think it builds solidarity. And I think as we continue to fight for the rights of those who are oppressed. I think in turn, and with time, they would begin feel themselves as part of the community. Because we are indeed fighting for one another. And I think that would be a way to you know narrow this gap that exists today. I mean one of the things that Dr. Blau teaches in her class is this idea that you know, I'm not here to fight for my rights, and I’m here to here to fight for your rights. So that in turn you fight for my rights. And so we have this connection, you know, and so by having this connection you know, we'll build cohesion and unity and I think that as students, like yourself go there and show those parents that you know, we care, we want your kid to do well, that can, they can help but to see that there are people who care for them. And you know, that makes it easier for them to be able to go to school meetings because they know that there are people who actually care for the kids. They may even use some of you to navigate the community. And I think creating those links, I think are very it's very important. But I think it is possible that that things are going to improve and I think that you know, students and activists play a big role in trying to, you know create those connections between those who are you know, this, you know, isolated in the larger community.

M: I agree. I think personally relationships will help improve the overarching relationship in our community with Latinos. Okay to end our interview, overall would you consider Chapel Hill to be an integrated society? If not, what prevents it from being integrated?

RG: Hm. That’s an interesting question. An integrated society, I think that, I don't think we're an integrated society, I think that there are big disconnects between the communities. I think that if you think about those who are oppressed, whether are the people who live un Eubanks, you know who are been dealing with polluted water for decades and who's, you know have been able to you know, convince a town to change things for them to improve the quality of life whether you continue to see the harassment of Latinos. I think that there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. I do think that you know, we can be pessimists and think that this is how it is everywhere and that everyone is bad, no I think that there's a lot of good things happening today and the fact is that towns are working with activists more than more so, especially with us, more so than before, are always good signs and I think that the more people are being are getting are being are aware the about the, some of the issues that you know, oppressed people are facing, but I think that you know, it just sort of it is it is hard to expect to have a unified community in Carrboro and Chapel Hill when in the United States we don't have that. I think that we are there's a lot of work that needs to be done. But I think that if you were to compare this place with other places I've been I think this is a, you know, it is a big improvement. So, I mean for the most part I think that this is a great place to live and I think Latinos have a better quality of life here, but I would, not go on to say that it is integrated because it's still a lot of problems out there that, a lot of oppression, and until that oppression is gone, I think it will be hard to say that we are integrated.

M: But I think a lot of the work you have done with the Human Rights Center and a lot of the work that the students have done here in Chapel Hill will help to increase, decrease this oppression and hopefully strive towards a more integrated society. Well, thank you so much for your time Mr. Gallegos. I look forward to sharing the rest of my research with you once my project is complete.

RG: Thank you. I appreciate it.