As we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month during the month of June, one member of the LAA board of directors comes to mind to many in the community. Jaime Rangel was born in Apan, Hidalgo, Mexico and came to the U.S. before celebrating his first birthday. Now he is the Regional Government Relations Director for FWD.us. Let’s dive into his journey and why he is still motivated to do the work that he does.
Early years in Georgia as an immigrant –
Jaime was brought to the U.S. when he was just an infant. In fact, he celebrated his first birthday in the U.S. He took his first step as a toddler on American soil, so he grew up all his life in this country.
When he started 2nd grade, his parents brought him to the city of Dalton, GA, where he grew up and a town he still considers home. He was away from Dalton for 5 years because he went to live in Murray County where he graduated from Murray County High School, played baseball there, and was part of the Boy Scouts there.
Jaime tried going to college after graduating high school, but DACA recipients have to pay 3 times more tuition costs than in-state candidates. Not being able to afford college didn’t stop Jaime from pursuing his dream. Once DACA came into place, he was able to get a work permit to work in the carpet mills where he would work +12 hour shifts so he could save money and attend Dalton State College part-time. Dalton State is the first Hispanic Serving Institution in the state and Jaime believes it is one of the best in the whole state.
Full circle moment for two Dalton leaders –
Rafael Huerta, the current LAA Northwest Georgia Director, was Jaime’s Boy Scout master back in the day. Jaime recalls that during that time, there weren’t a lot of Latinos in Boy Scouts so in his eyes “Rafa was pushing something new and trying to get our community involved in what is a great program.” For Jaime, being a Boy Scout helped lay the foundation of how to be a good steward, a good citizen in this country and taught him great values.
He recalls, “if it weren’t for Rafael Huerta, I would not have gone to the National Jamboree, the big Jamboree of all the Boy Scouts in Virginia. With the help of Rafa, the delegation of Latino Boy Scouts from around the country made one mega delegation and we got to see President Bush speak that day.” He remembers President Bush telling all of them that they were the future of this country – Jaime recalls he said that without skipping a beat giving him the confidence of becoming that one day.
“And now seeing Rafael work at the LAA and me being a board member – a lot of it is because of the foundation he (Rafael Huerta) laid on me to be where I’m at right now. So, it’s great to be working with Rafael in Dalton and the organization to provide great service for the community because then again, Rafa is going in with a good heart, a good intent to create something positive for our community. The sky is the limit in Dalton and it’s only going to empower our town and that’s something that’s dearest nearest to me as I still have family there.” – Jaime Rangel
His career path into politics –
Jaime’s original goal was to work in finance, but he got involved in politics because he “got tired of the rules being against us”. After taking GALEO’s leadership course, he attended the State Capitol a couple of times to talk to people and share his story in hopes to change the laws in this state.
Now, a few years later, with the help of several people in the community including some LAA board members and our very own CEO Santiago Marquez, Jaime is doing just that. He is the Regional Government Relations Director for FWD.us where he works on policies and educates lawmakers both at the federal and state level on common-sense immigration policies that will help immigrants nationwide. Jaime’s role directly coincides with FWD.us’s ultimate goal and the LAA is proud to have them as a partner and to have Jaime as a dedicated member of our board.
Jaime’s motivation to keep doing the work that he is doing goes to his 3-year-old son. He knows that “he’s going to grow up with individuals who are mixed status. He is going to grow up with a system that if we don’t enact change right now, can be worse off politically for many families across the country. So, what keeps me going is trying to do a positive impact for the future generation. I know there are better days ahead of us but in order to achieve those better days, I have to do my part and just work along with everyone for a better tomorrow.”
Becoming an LAA Board Member –
Since the LAA wasn’t present in Dalton while Jaime was growing up, his first interaction with the organization was through David Schafer, current board member and former LAA director of advocacy. He mentions that the LAA “has a track record of really helping the community again with no ill agenda and having amazing staff.”
Through the years Jaime has collaborated with the LAA to promote good policies and build bridges with elected officials from both sides. “It’s hard enough to just provide the direct services, but also to enact change. It’s a very difficult task. But I think the LAA, with the leadership of Santiago, and with the help of God, is heading in the right trajectory in trying to improve the lives of many Latinos here in the state of Georgia.”
Why the LAA?
“I believe the LAA is important because they’re the frontline organization when it comes to helping our community. You don’t even have to look far for an example. If you look back during the first wave, when we had a lot of people from the border coming here seeking asylum, the LAA acted fast. They’re one of the first organizations on the ground to provide that direct service. And that’s just one prime example of the LAA living up to its mission and just helping individuals.
On the policy side, the LAA has invited elected officials from both sides of the table to events, including Gov Kemp, Senator Raphael Warnock, and Senator John Ossoff. This shows the bipartisanship that the LAA brings and trying to bring people together for the better of our community. Cutting through political gridlock, which is the same vision that we share at FWD.us – cutting through political gridlock to find common sense solutions. So, this is something that I admire, and that’s why the LAA, because the LAA is a crucial entity here in our state for our people.”
His hopes for the state of Georgia and his hometown of Dalton, GA –
Jaime’s hope for the state of Georgia “is that every individual, no matter their background, Latino or not Latino, has an opportunity to thrive in a state.” He strongly believes that despite some challenges that we face as a state, we are the best state in the republic. The state of Georgia has a history of enacting positive change for people. It’s a state that continues to impress and amaze the whole nation, not just electorally, but economically. But “we have to be present at the table and I think the LAA has done a great job of being present at the table to ensure our community has a voice and that our community has a say in how we want to move forward and I’m optimistic of where we’re going, we but we just have to do our part and keep on working collaboratively as an organization to move forward.”
To his community in Dalton, he tells them “to keep on thriving and keep on living the American dream because I strongly believe that Dalton is the best town in the whole state.”