Migrant workers find comfort in Tifton - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Migrant workers find comfort in Tifton

TIFT CO., GA (WALB) - So far this year, more than 1100 unaccompanied migrant children have been sent to Georgia. We don't know exactly where.

Governor Nathan Deal worries they'll cause a financial burden on local communities.

At Our Divine Savior Catholic Church in Tifton, as many as 300 migrant families will attend mass on Saturday evenings.

It's where they feel at home, and even learn how to speak English.

Luz Marti came to the U.S. decades ago, and knows first hand how hard it is to learn a second language.

"I knew some English, but it was very basic and it was quite difficult the first few months," says Luz Marti, a Tifton Literacy Program Volunteer.

Now Marti, and other volunteers with the Tifton Literacy program, like John Hamm, teach migrants who come to work in Tifton how to speak English.

Twice a week they teach classes at "Our Divine Savior Catholic Church."

"This becomes home for them. For many of them," says Marti.

Migrant workers come from Mexico and Venezuela to do agricultural work, and Hamm helps them learn how to adjust.

"We start out with how do you say your name and how do you pronounce the English alphabet because many of them cannot spell their name in English so we can understand it," says Literacy Volunteer John Hamm.

Marti says more families are deciding to stay, and opening their own businesses.

"Opening restaurants and opening janitorial services, even clothing businesses," she says.

Right now Congress is trying to figure out how to deal with the flood of children crossing into the U.S. hoping for a better life.

Marti says they haven't seen any in Tift County, but she hopes something is done.

"Its very tragic and I do hope the government finds a solution for this situation because these children are forced to come here without parents, it has to be a horrible experience for them not knowing where they are going to end up," says Marti.

The Tift County School System has a Migrant Education Program to help migrant children transition, including a preschool program for three and four year olds.

"We have a dedicated migrant education teacher, and a power pro in that class that follows the same curriculum that the other preschoolers follow," says Tammy Smith, Director of Federal Programs.

The school system can't turn away any migrant children, but it would get more federal money if there is an increase in the number of migrant kids they have to teach.

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