Last night Loida, Rosario and Viridiana attended the Orange County Democratic Women’s monthly meeting in Hillsborough. By looking at these photos, you would never know that all together they have lost 23 pounds and are beginning to exhibit the worrisome symptoms of undernourishment. Despite that being on all of our minds, they took questions from the crowd and won a few more allies.

Author Paul Cuadros and researcher Hannah Gill led a discussion titled “Immigration Issues in NC & Beyond.” Cuadros discussed his book A Home on the Field (read an excerpt in TIME alienation, Siler City has chosen assimilation and has benefited from it.

The average age of an immigrant in Siler City is 25, versus much higher numbers for African-Americans or whites. Cuardos said that this shift contributed to the “browning” of America, alongside the “graying” of America, referring to the ageing of the baby boomers.

Hannah Gill shared much of her personal story, which began in “the most boring town on the face of the earth,” Elon, NC. That was not so upon her return from college, having found the town completely transformed by immigration.

Elon, NC in 1999-2000 was one of the highest rates of change in immigrant population in North Carolina, which in turn had the highest rate of change of any state in the country. She discussed her upcoming book, “The Latino Migration Experience in North Carolina: New Roots in the Old North State, which will come out this November.

Gill also shared with the audience several ways in which people could get involved in immigration reform, including UnitingNC.org, an organization which hopes to put a human face on the immigration debate.

The conversation later turned to our three, for whom the subject of immigration is all too present-tense and real.

Each of the three told their stories and dispelled myths. Viridiana shared her dreams and the hardship she faced when trying to achieve them. Suicide among undocumented youth is not unheard of, and Viridiana did not shy away from sharing her own battle with depression.

One member of the audience asked how taxes play into the immigration debate. Since it is often wrongly assumed that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes, when in fact they quite often do, the strikers explained exactly how they have done it for their entire working lives.

Loida explained that by using an ITIN, or Tax ID number, undocumented immigrants can file tax returns or get jobs. They can be used like a Social Security number for some things, but not others like criminal background checks.

By the end of the evening, everyone seemed ready to support the cause. They certainly sounded ready.

“We’re strong, we’re activists,” one of the attendees told the strikers. “We can act locally.”

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