Formerly almost 90 percent Caucasian, the town known as the "Ellis Island of the South" is experiencing a major demographic shift due to refugee relocation. Every city council member is white, but the population is now over 80 percent non-white. With many local government positions open, three former immigrants are trying to make change from a community level by campaigning for naturalized citizen votes.
The first black mayor of Clarkston, Georgia and incumbent, Emanuel Ransom is confident that he will be reelected due to his history of public service and minority advocacy. He appealed to the federal government with the help of Governor Nathan Deal to reduce refugee resettlement rates in order to focus on meeting infrastructure demands made by town population growth. Ted Terry, the only white candidate and the youngest candidate, argues against immigrants being a detriment to societal well-being and a burden on the system.
Clarkston, Georgia has historically seen low turnout rates. The candidates are nonetheless confident this election will be different, and are proven correct when 55 percent more voters participate than in the last one. With a new mayor and the highest-elected Somali immigrant as councilman, many are hopeful for lasting change. Preview a video about Long Beach, California where Cambodian students are not passing high school.
Credits: Politics of the New South
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More than 80,000 refugees have settled in Georgia since the 1980s and 10,000 of them were placed just outside of Atlanta in the small city of Clarkston. As a result, Clarkston’s population went from 97 percent American-born to 53 percent foreign-born. We return to Clarkston to follow unlikely candidates in the city’s 2013 local election, as three Mayoral and City Council candidates are former refugees who will be running for office—and voting—for the first time. Will they be able to bring new voters to the polls and make their voices heard? America By the Numbers documents this remarkable moment in Clarkston’s history.
Length: 26 minutes
Copyright date: ©2014
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